Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for February, 2013

“I Am Accountable”

Andrew Mason’s letter to Groupon employees announcing his removal as CEO of the company:

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today.

Candid. I’ll bet he’ll be hired at his next job for a 30% discount.

Outbox is Stupid

Laura June, The Verge:

For $4.99 a month, you sign up online for an Outbox account (they also have apps), and then an Outbox employee comes to your house, picks up your mail, takes it back to Outbox HQ, opens it, scans it, and gives you access to it via your account.

Are you shitting me? As the very funny @NextTechBlog put it:

Why, At This Stage In The Cycle, It Seems Perfectly Reasonable To Let A VC-Backed Tech Startup Open All Your Mail

I’ll be keeping my eye out for that article.

The Rise of the Well-Dressed Man

Guy Trebay:

He was — if you’ll forgive the use of a lint-covered term from the cultural sock drawer — a metrosexual avant la lettre. Unlike the hippies and gender benders and rocker peacocks who were his near contemporaries, Joe Namath wasn’t toying with masculinity. His liking for nice clothes was no particular “tell” for sexual preference. That he wore coats made from the sheared pelts of expensively farmed rodents did not mean Joe Namath secretly liked men: it meant he liked mink.

Introducing Mandroid

Usually it’s Eric Schmidt saying the stupid things, but today, it was Sergey Brin’s turn:

Speaking at the TED Conference today in Long Beach, Calif., Brin told the audience that smartphones are “emasculating.” “You’re standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass,” he said.

Using Google Glass requires a fair bit of rubbing as well, and the prototypes have fewer hardware features than most phones. But Brin said they improved on smartphones in certain ways, particularly in having a camera ever-ready to start snapping pictures.

Are Google executives completely oblivious to the words coming out of their mouths?

According to the Oxford Dictionary:

emasculate: deprive (a man) of his male role or identity

A can of worms, that.

Apple CEO Promises Investors ‘Great Stuff’

Michael Liedtke:

Apple CEO Tim Cook sought to assure shareholders Wednesday that the company is working on some “great stuff” that may help reverse a sharp decline in its stock price.

True to Apple’s secretive nature, Cook didn’t provide any further product details during the company’s annual shareholders meeting Wednesday.

No shit.

Via Jim Dalrymple, CNBC has a liveblog of today’s shareholder meeting. Reuters also has some good notes from the meeting.

Samsung’s Heft in Android Worries Google

Amir Efrati, for the Wall Street Journal:1

Google executives worry that Samsung has become so big—the South Korean company sells about 40% of the gadgets that use Google’s Android software—that it could flex its muscle to renegotiate their arrangement and eat into Google’s lucrative mobile-ad business, people familiar with the matter said.

Now, as top executives from the world’s mobile industry gather in Barcelona, Google is meeting with other companies in hopes that their Android devices can keep Samsung’s leverage in check by providing legitimate competition, the people said.

This is the least surprising news I’ve heard since AppleInsider reported that Apple would make a thinner and lighter iPad this year.

Remember: Samsung makes the most money off Android, by far — including Google. Samsung is in a very real position to create their own fork of Android, call it “sAndroid”, and remove all legacy support from it. They could singlehandedly steer that mobile operating system, if they wanted to, and that must scare the shit out of Google.


  1. Google has it cached. You know the drill. ↩︎

App.net’s New Direction

Marco Arment takes issue with today’s announcement from Dalton Caldwell:

They seem to want developers to start using App.net as a primary storage and communication platform. When they launched, this was something cool developers could do. Now, it seems like this is what developers should do, and this is how we’re supposed to view App.net.

As a developer, I don’t think I’d go anywhere near that type of integration.

App.net Is Now a “Freemium” Service

Ballsy move from Dalton Caldwell, with a catch:

To get access to the App.net free tier, you must have an invite. These invites are being distributed to current App.net members on paid plans.

This was a smart setup from Caldwell from the beginning. He began as a paid service, then created a free option when he found buoyancy. Other sites — Twitter, Facebook, etc. — do the opposite, and scramble to find a profitable angle. Caldwell has created a company that isn’t indebted to venture capitalists, doesn’t serve ads, and appears to be scalable.

If the barrier of entry created by being a paid-only service was the main thing that dissuaded Twitter from being worried about a competitor, they should be tugging at their collars a little now. Nothing will change overnight, but if Twitter continues its slow march to try to become profitable, there could be an interesting shift in the user base.

In other news, the whole website got a redesign to make it not look like a skinned Bootstrap app. Nice.

Another Optimistic David Pierce Review

This time, regarding the Chromebook Pixel:

It’s a bit heavier than the MacBook Air — 3.35 pounds vs. about three flat — but everyone who asked to use the Pixel said something about it being noticeably heavier.

[…]

The smooth, glassy trackpad is fast and responsive — though it’s missing some of the gestures I love about OS X, and is really limited to pointing and scrolling plus the rare pinch-to-zoom gesture.

[…]

The touchscreen works relatively well when I try to use it, though it does tend to scroll in fits and starts rather than glide smoothly underneath my finger. But thanks to some combination of the excellent trackpad and my subconscious reticence to sully the gorgeous display with fingerprints, I just used the Pixel like it had no touchscreen.

[…]

It boots in less than ten seconds, and resumes almost instantly — it’s a very fast, stable, powerful machine that never gets too loud or too hot. But it’s not noticeably better than any other Chromebook, and it doesn’t fix the problems seemingly endemic to these devices, like their odd inability to smoothly play local videos.

[…]

But even stretching the battery as much as I could while still using the device normally, I never got more than five hours of battery life. That’s just not very good, and doesn’t make sense given how many sacrifices Google already asks you to make.

[…]

It’s not a desktop OS, though, and it’s missing some of the things I rely on on my PC. Some are crucial: way too many of the apps I named above don’t work offline, and even those that do are stripped-down, slow, and often clumsy.

[…]

And yet, when it came time to write this review, edit and upload pictures, and do real research, I opened up my MacBook Air again. I needed Photoshop. I needed Evernote to work offline, because I needed a tool that worked better than Google Docs’s Scratchpad tool (which is handy, just not particularly powerful).

[…]

Everyone should want a Chromebook Pixel — I certainly do. But almost no one should buy one.

Pierce awards this product which “almost no one should buy” an overall score of 7.5 out of 10 possible points. In what universe is this barely-useful, buggy, and expensive product awarded even a mediocre score?

LG Doesn’t Know Why It Bought WebOS From HP

Nilay Patel, The Verge:

But where HP appears to be confidently moving forward from the client side of webOS and investing in services, LG seems extremely hesitant, and even confused about its future plans for the OS. Asked how webOS could be used to create “disruptive” smart TV products absent any of the content deals that have thus far stunted TV innovation, LG CTO Dr. Skott Ahn simply said that he believes “the environment will change from an app environment to a web environment.” Further asked to name the core benefit of the webOS platform for smart TVs, Dr. Ahn simply remained silent for 10 seconds, prompting LG’s North American VP of smart TV Samuel Chang to add that “we’re at the nascent stage” of smart TV development.

I wonder if they kept the receipt.

Annoyance

John Siracusa’s “Annoyance-Driven Development” article, published this weekend, makes the argument that there’s far too much legacy in today’s technology based on his experiences with Netflix’s “House of Cards“, and the PS4. The latter argument makes a lot of sense:

But when I look at the PlayStation 4 hardware itself, I see a shrewd acknowledgement of the true nature of innovation. It doesn’t cost much to add dedicated silicon to handle background network transfers and video encoding and decoding, and it sure isn’t sexy, technologically speaking. Low-power sleep states, instant suspend/resume, progressive downloads, and remote play are all features that are a giant pain to implement and do precisely nothing to make games look, sound, or perform better. But it’s these things, not the number of CPU/GPU cores or the amount of RAM, that really have a chance of making the PS4 gaming experience stand head and shoulders above what has come before.

His argument against “House of Cards”, however, is disappointing:

But even Netflix has been unable to escape some of the trappings of the days of video past. A TV series like House of Cards that’s released a season at a time naturally lends itself to multi-episode viewing sessions. But as I recently tweeted, watching a minute and a half of opening credits before each episode can get tiresome.

Harry Marks replies:

True innovation in television does not come from eliminating 90 seconds from the beginning of every episode, it comes from making terrific content more available more widely (and by shutting down the Bravo network…please…).

I completely agree. I don’t see why Siracusa used opening credits as an example of legacy carryovers. The idea that a production shouldn’t provide onscreen credit to those who worked on it seems to be based purely on selfish irritation. If you can’t spare ninety seconds of your precious, precious time to see who worked on the episode you are about to enjoy, you shouldn’t watch the show in the first place; you’re clearly much too busy and important for the names of pesky “artists” and “writers”.

If you also disagree with Siracusa, but find Harry Marks to be too civilised for a Monday morning, John C. Welch has your back:

How-EVER does he put up with the aaaaagony of mandatory opening credits. MY GOD, IT’S LIKE NETFLIX IS SLAPPING HIM IN THE FACE WITH THEIR DICKS! WITH ALLLL THE DICKS!!!