Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for November, 2012

Elevation Dock with Lightning Adapter Review

Marco Arment:

It’s just a metal clamp that holds an Apple Lightning cable (not included, $19.99 from Apple) securely at the required angle. This brought my total cost to $97.40 per adapted Dock. For the pre-adapted Dock and a Lightning cable from Apple, new buyers need to pay $108.99 plus shipping and tax as needed. I could justify $59 on Kickstarter, but now it’s almost twice that.

Simply ludicrous. $29 for a dock from Apple is nearly an embarrassment unto itself (including shipping, I paid $10 for a second-hand first-generation iPhone dock), but a $100 dock that doesn’t even have the advantage it was supposed to have over Apple’s docks is utterly bonkers.

Update: I suppose the advantage the Elevation Dock has over the iPhone 5 dock is that the latter doesn’t exist. So there’s that.

The Lightning Dock looks like it’s significantly better than the Elevation Dock, though. It’s smaller, lighter, and significantly less expensive.

A Word From the Developer of the Gift Card Camera in iTunes 11

The mystery developer contacted 9to5Mac with some details of the camera-based gift card redemption feature in iTunes 11:

Now, what nobody knows yet is that this feature is accessible by visually impaired or blind people. VoiceOver helps positioning the card in front of the camera and the very fast image processing algorithm generates very quickly the result. The user experience is amazing.

Accessibility is such an important component that goes overlooked frequently. I’m just as guilty of this — I often forget to add alt text to images, or titles to <div>s. Apple is setting the bar high on this front. I just tried redeeming an expired gift card with VoiceOver on and it worked incredibly well.

How Syria Turned Off the Internet

Matthew Prince over on the CloudFare blog explains:

Syria has 4 physical cables that connect it to the rest of the Internet. Three are undersea cables that land in the city of Tartous, Syria. The fourth is an over-land cable through Turkey. In order for a whole-country outage, all four of these cables would have had to been cut simultaneously. That is unlikely to have happened.

A Film About Coffee

“Mornings like today, I just did not want to get out of bed. And then I’d think, ‘oh, but I get to have coffee.’ That thought never gets old.”

It’s hard for me to get out of bed when I peek out of my bedroom window and see a blanket of white, or if I know I don’t have to be anywhere in particular. But then I remember that I only get to make a double espresso or an AeroPressed cup if I roll out from under the duvet.

A Film About Coffee is exactly what it says on the tin, featuring roasters you know, like Blue Bottle and Ritual. The film looks beautifully shot, even if the logo is a bit like that design trend. No release date has been set, unfortunately. I really want to see this movie.

Something is Wrong With My iPad: I Still Hate My Life

If you feel absolutely compelled to upgrade your iPad every year, make sure you’re not like Sam Weiner:

I hope you Apple Geniuses are up to snuff because I’m pretty sure my iPad’s busted. No matter how much I use it to check email, surf the web, or tag photos on Facebook, I’m still gnawed at by a horrifying emptiness that no amount of fiddling with your magical gadget can fill.

Surface Pros to Be Sold With Jumper Cables

Dan Seifert, for a Verge trifecta today:

Going by Microsoft’s guidance, owners of the Surface Pro should expect about four hours of battery life before they need to reach for the charger.

Hey, that’s pretty good for 2005.

Acer C7 Chromebook Review

David Pierce reviews a $199 laptop for The Verge:

I can easily get my fingernail in the seam between the lid and the bezel around the display, and I’m worried about other things getting in there too. The base’s two sections don’t come together cleanly, either, and there’s a sharp lip on the bottom as a result. Even the hinge sticks out awkwardly behind the base, like it’s about to come off. Every part of the C7 bends and flexes as you hold it, and I found myself babying it for fear it would break. […]

[T]he C7’s trackpad is horrible. It’s sticky as you move your finger across it, and the cursor jumps across the screen in response. It’s not even reliable as a pointer, since it’s always stuttering around. Two-finger scrolling technically works, but just barely: sometimes I’d swipe and the page would advance by about three lines, and other times it would fly down to the very bottom.

It gets worse. This sounds totally unusable in the real world. Yet it still gets a 5.5/10 because it has “solid performance” despite Pierce noting that “performance isn’t often the limiting factor with Chrome OS”.

Yes, it costs only $199, which is the same price as 19 bags of manure, something which is actually useful.

Entitlement, Morals, and Pragmatism

Megan McArdle of The Daily Beast notes how the common argument made by Certified Internet Economists™ in favour of piracy (or in contention of the waiting period between show air date and availability on iTunes) is completely wrong:

Ludicrous, because if piracy is actually wrong, it doesn’t get less wrong simply because you can’t have the product exactly when and where you want it at a price you wish to pay. You are not entitled to shoplift Birkin bags on the grounds that they are ludicrously overpriced, and you cannot say you had no alternative but to break into an the local ice cream parlor at 2 am because you are really craving some Rocky Road and the insensitive bastards refused to stay open 24/7 so that you could have your favorite sweet treat whenever you want. You are not forced into piracy because you can’t get a television show at the exact moment when you want to see it; you are choosing piracy.

Via Marco Arment, who agrees with McArdle’s point:

Admit it: you’re ripping it off, it’s morally questionable at best (and illegal), but you don’t care. You’re pirating a TV show because you don’t want to pay for it or wait for it to become available in the ways you want. You’re not making any kind of statement or participating in a movement — you’re just being cheap and/or impatient. If you don’t have the fortitude to cope with that, then don’t pirate.

It may not be right, but “yelling about what’s right isn’t a pragmatic approach for the media industry to take.” Arment, earlier this year:

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.

The pragmatic approach is to address the demand.

How can these two aspects be reconciled? There’s obviously demand, and it clearly isn’t being met to the standards of those who wish not to wait until the end of the season to watch the first episode of a show. While some of these people are simply being cheap, others would happily pay for the content that interests them. The current model doesn’t support this.

If only some company would make a great internet-connected television platform.

Rdio Makes Me Appreciate iTunes

Rob Weychert spent a year using Rdio, and came away with mixed feelings:

But subscribing to Rdio is a different kind of investment. Rather than investing in one album, I’ve invested in all the albums, which is the same as investing in none of them.

For Shawn Blanc, Rdio essentially nuked his use of iTunes:

Since signing up for Rdio, I’ve bought a mere 7 albums off iTunes. I used to buy an album about once per month. I’d then proceed to listen to that one album pretty much nonstop for 30 days until I had it memorized and I was nearly sick of it and we needed some time apart from each other. And so I would buy a new album and repeat.

I signed up for a free trial of Rdio to get a feel for it, and I came away with a totally different experience than either of these fine writers: I disliked it. The quality of the streams bothered me most — I could immediately tell that the files I was listening to were heavily compressed. According to their support centre answers, Rdio uses different compression settings, with their highest quality being a 192 kb/s stream. That’s good, but I noticed some tracks were of significantly lower quality (possibly down to 96 kb/s). That’s not to say that a lossless stream would be a necessary solution, as most of my library is imported in LAME’s V0 setting. This is something that likely won’t bother most people, but it did bother me.

I also disliked not owning my music. The chances of Rdio removing an already-available track from my region’s allowed streams are probably slim, but I noticed a lot of tracks that were not available in Canada. And, while I don’t listen to too many barely-known artists, there were some noticeable omissions from both the indie and mainstream artists I checked with.

Rdio is a nice complement to iTunes, but it doesn’t replace it. At least, not for me.

Market Research is Still Full of Shit

If you want to estimate the market share of any product with any degree of accuracy, the research needs to be solid. ABI Research has released a report citing Apple’s tablet share at just 55% — significantly greater than any single competitor, but less than you’d expect.

ABI says that the iPad Mini has failed during the most critical sales period of the year, but that sales period has barely begun. They say that Android tablets are over 40% of the market, but they don’t say how that figure was acquired. They say that Android tablets are poised to overtake the iPad in the middle of 2013, but they base this on their mystery estimation techniques. Finally, and most importantly, ABI forgets that Apple will be announcing their sales figures at the end of January, but their competitors will not. Nobody knows exactly how many tablets Samsung, Asus, or Amazon are selling because those companies don’t release their figures.

Your App Needs to Sync

Steve Streza:

If your app deals with user’s data, building cloud sync into your app should not be a feature you bolt on to an app – it is the feature. It’s why you will beat competitors or lose hard to them. It’s what will make your app feel effortless, thoughtless, and magical.

I expect my own data to be everywhere before I am. It’s about elegance through simplicity.

Living With Lumia: Back to the iPhone, With Caveats

Remember how Christina Warren was spending over a week using only the Nokia Lumia 920? She just published her final report and, though it isn’t the most thorough review in the world, it does highlight some interesting points:

Then, on Thanksgiving itself — as I was taking photos of my food (the Warren-Robertson household is not traditional, as we go out to eat on Thanksgiving) — other patrons in the restaurant recognized the Lumia and there were points and stares and murmurs about the device.

I never expected that. At all.

Apart from the lack of apps she described last week, Warren was generally pleased with her Lumia experience. I’d love to give it a try as well, if only it weren’t for the problems with quarantined ecosystems.

Google Play Reviews Will Now Feature Your Name and Picture

Matt Brian reports for The Next Web:

Seeking to improve the quality of reviews on its Play Store, Google has all but removed an element of anonymity and now requires users to post reviews of apps and games using their Google+ account.

Judging by the real-name-and-picture Facebook comments on TechCrunch and BGR, this isn’t going to change the quality of the comments and reviews at all.

Sounds pretty Schmidt-y.

Amazon’s Profits Don’t Exist, but the Company Keeps on Keeping On

Matthew Yglesias for Slate:

It means that Wall Street is on board with an Amazon business strategy that doesn’t require it to actually make profits as long as it increases sales volumes. And if you’re in any line of business where you compete with Amazon — and Amazon is in a lot of businesses, and seems to get into new ones each year — that should terrify you.

It’s a strange world where Apple can post record profits and it causes a giant drop in their stock, yet Amazon’s shareholders are totally cool with that company posting massive losses.