Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for June, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Matt Alexander thinks you should stop whining:

Whenever we decry Google Glass for how it works in its current iteration, how iOS 7 behaves in its second beta, or how the Xbox One would affect us today rather than three years from now, we betray a deep-seated sentiment of fear. We show that we — as the community of thinkers and doers comprising this industry — are afraid of adhering to the very tenets through which we judge others.

There is — no doubts about it — a fear of change in people which becomes especially hypocritical in the tech scene. But I disagree with Alexander that we should not criticize the products of these changes. There are valid criticisms abound which can (and, in my opinion, should) be raised. These criticisms are not to suggest that we should not change; rather, they’re to point out problems that may arise as a byproduct of these improvements.

Is Google Glass perfect in its current iteration? No. Should we have expected it to be perfect? Hell no. But are there legitimate privacy issues with a subtle camera that may or may not be recording at any given moment? Yes.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of the New MacBook Air’s Battery

The Next Web asked seven owners of new MacBook Airs just how great the battery life is. Unsurprisingly, pretty fucking great:

The increase is considered game changing to their every day life by many […]

For instance, let’s consider the weight. Obviously the Air’s light weight is its major draw – but honestly, don’t you end up carrying that charger, too? Now you don’t need to, so you just dropped the actual weight you’re lugging around by 25%. At this point, your fancy backpack is probably heavier than the computer it holds.

That’s pretty rad. The battery life claims also seem to match Apple’s estimates — a rarity, considering my 2012 Air is rated for seven hours, but gets about an hour less in regular use.

Remember how Steve Jobs described the redesigned 2010 MacBook Air as being the product of a “MacBook and an iPad [hooking] up“. That’s never more true; one of the points emphasized by the owners was “reduced use of [an] iPad”. But David Chartier isn’t convinced by this:

For all the incredibleness of the MacBook Air’s new battery, the device is still dependent on WiFi hotspots and, let’s face it, the internet is an essential ingredient these days for getting most things done.

An iPad is available with a cell modem in it, but no MacBook is, despite an old prototype with the capability. It’s a shame; I’d bet a lot of people would love an iPad-esque pay-as-you-go data plan for their MacBooks. Carrier locking, unfortunately, makes this a giant pain in the ass.

Apple Adds Chip Supplier

Jessica Lessin, Wall Street Journal:

This month, after years of technical delays, Apple finally signed a deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to make some of the chips starting in 2014, according to a TSMC executive. The process had been beset by glitches preventing the chips from meeting Apple’s speed and power standards, TSMC officials said.

Despite the deal, Samsung will remain the primary supplier through next year, one of these executives said.

There are three takeaways from this article, if you’re the type to believe anonymous sources in the Journal. First, there’s this:

TSMC plans to start mass-producing the chips early next year using advanced “20-nanometer” technology, which makes the chips potentially smaller and more energy-efficient.

The A6 uses a 32 nanometre process. This could mean huge battery life improvements in a future iPhone model. The 2013 MacBook Air and some of the features of iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks underscore Apple’s renewed emphasis on battery life. Good news.

The second takeaway is what this means for Samsung. According to IC Insights, around 83% of Samsung’s 2012 processor revenue was generated by Apple’s orders.

The third takeaway is the Journal’s consistent ragging on Apple’s ass. The headline for this article:

Apple Finds It Difficult to Divorce Samsung

Why not simply state what I stated — that Apple added another supplier? Why spin it? It’s the same story throughout the article. The Journal has been delivering linkbait like this for a while.

Yahoo’s Spring Cleaning

Not only does Yahoo take forever to respond to trends, they’re even late for their spring cleaning. Among the list of products that will be discontinued, there’s this gem:

AltaVista (July 8, 2013)

Please visit Yahoo! Search for all of your searching needs.

Yeah.

Alta-fucking-Vista still exists. And it’s owned by Yahoo. And it will keep running until July 8 of this year. Holy shit.

Kyle Petty: Danica Patrick Is ‘Not a Race Car Driver’

Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski hands Kyle Petty his ass on a plate:

I’ve met and driven with Kyle before, and he was a super nice guy who wasn’t terrible behind the wheel. But the truth is that over 30 years of racing, Kyle made less of an impact on NASCAR than Danica [Patrick] has made in 26 races at the top level of the sport.

Danica Patrick should try for Formula One. It’d be great to see this page expanded.

Feedle-Dee-Dee

Dr. Drang:

Have you been acting like Scarlett O’Hara when it comes to the impending Google Reader shutdown? “I’ll think about that tomorrow… Tomorrow is another day.” Well, there are only a couple of tomorrows left; and if you’ve sworn, as God as your witness, you’ll never go hungry for RSS feeds again, you’d better get a move on.

Josh Centers of TidBits is also examining Google Reader replacements.

Personally, I’m sticking with the same applications I’ve used for a while — Pulp and RSS.app — while trying Digg Reader.

Android Everywhere

Erica Ogg, GigaOm:

Google is looking far beyond smartphones and tablets for its mobile operating system, Android: it is reportedly planning on building a whole slew of Android-based devices, including a smart watch and a video game console, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Does running the same operating system on a swathe of different devices — each with their own specific needs and qualities — produce great products? No, but it shouldn’t be considered in that way. This is likely Android in name only; the iPhone famously “runs OS X” as did the first-generation Apple TV. The current generations of Apple TV run iOS, but again, in name only.

iOS 7’s Coalesced Updates

Dave Hamilton of the Mac Observer has a super metaphor for iOS 7’s coalesced updates:

“Alright, time for everyone to use the bathroom,” my father used to say on road trips. “But I don’t have to,” was the inevitable whine from (at least) one of us kids. Dad’s reply was always the same: “It wasn’t a question.”

My dad was focused on being as efficient as possible, of course. Instead of stopping for just one person to pee and then getting back on the road, it makes way more sense to have everyone pee at each stop. That at least prevents the inevitable inefficiency introduced ten minutes later when the next person feels nature urging them along.

OS X Mavericks does something similar, though with the CPU instead of the network. The results speak for themselves; Matt Gemmell has been retweeting battery life improvements all day. In both cases — iOS 7 and OS X — this efficiency is going to reveal itself in the battery consumption of the mobile products concerned. Very smart.

Sorry, NSA; Terrorists Don’t Use Verizon, or Skype, or Gmail

Brian Merchant, Vice:

So, essentially, the NSA is deeply compromising our privacy so that it can do an extremely shitty job of looking for terrorists.

Bin Laden’s staff used to pass files around via USB thumb drives. It’s reasonable to assume that terrorists, extremists, or criminals with any kind of brains would opt for offline or heavily-encrypted communications. Passing messages with pen and paper from one person to another is more secure in this century than sending anything electronically.

Patent Troll That Sues Public Transit Systems Gets Hauled Into Court

Joe Mullin, Ars Technica:

ArrivalStar claims that its patents covered the basics of vehicle tracking, regardless of what software or systems were used. The company’s founder and inventor Martin Kelly Jones says he thought up the basics of vehicle tracking and notification with a telephone-based system in 1990s; now every company using online vehicle-tracking owes him a royalty, according to ArrivalStar lawyers. 

What a dick.

Inside the Pixar Campus

Adam B. Vary, Buzzfeed:

The beating heart of the campus — and of Pixar itself — is the two-story Steve Jobs Building that provides a tremendous 218,000 square feet of space for roughly 700 people to work, eat, and play. The name is not just an honorific to the late Jobs, who bought the company from LucasArts in 1986 and served as its Chairman and then CEO until it was purchased by Disney in 2006. In a very real sense, the building is Steve Jobs.

Motorola Mobility’s New Logo

In more branding news, Motorola’s logo got the Google treatment recently. It appears to be a modified version of Avenir, but the shape of the a in both iterations is dissimilar to any variation of Avenir that I’m familiar with. Very clean, but sterile; the band of coloured bars around the famous Motorola M glyph is a beautiful touch, though.

And Partners Make Seven

Armin Vit of Brand New, on Sterling Cooper & Partners’ new logo:

Overall, I don’t know if this logo communicates all the ideals expressed by the partners in the press release but it is definitely a major improvement that establishes SC&P as an edgier and more contemporary agency.

I want the mug.

On OS X’s ‘Missing’ Redesign

Stephen Hackett:

Yes, OS X Mavericks removes leather and some of the other silly things brought over from iOS, but the core look is still modern and clean, and more importantly, works really well with a mouse or trackpad. While Apple might “completely remake” OS X in the future, I don’t really see the need at this point.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Craig Hockenberry earlier this month. If you compare screenshots of OS X Mavericks with 10.0 Cheetah, you’d assume Apple has stagnated. Sure, the pinstripes have been removed and the more garish interface elements have been toned down, but everything is in a similar place. This isn’t stagnation, but refinement.

Consider a company that has done the opposite: in the same timeframe, Microsoft has released Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. All of these have vastly different user interface elements and appearances; XP is bubbly, Vista is glassy, 7 is a refinement of Vista,1 and 8 is boxy and “flat”. Until Windows 8, none of these replaced PNGs fundamentally changed the way the operating system worked; Windows 8 was the first version optimized for a touch screen, so its interface had to change.

Is the latter really more representative of innovation or exploration? Apple got a lot of core interface concepts right in 2001, and they’ve continued refining and purifying that instead of futzing around with reskinning the whole interface in a different way with each new version. Unless Apple releases touchscreen Macs, I don’t think OS X is desperate for a redesign.


  1. I think Windows 7 is the pinnacle Windows version, especially from a user interface perspective. ↩︎

Google Mine

Alex Chitu (via John Gruber):

Google Mine lets you share your belongings with your friends and keep up to date with what your friends are sharing. It enables you to control which of your Google+ Circles you share an item with. It also lets you rate and review the items, upload photos of them and share updates on the Google+ Stream where your friends get to see and comment on them.

Remember: Google is the innovative one, while Apple’s stuff is all derivative. That’s why Google is basically inventing Pinterest and making it work with their Facebook-like product.

Project Loon

Kevin Fitchard, GigaOm:

The ballon-powered network know as Loon may be one of Google’s famed moon shots, but the biggest issues facing the project are grounded right here on Earth. This won’t just be a major technological feat for Google. It will be a huge political undertaking.

I applaud Google for trying to do something like this (and giving it an apt name), but it seems more like a stunt than a commitment. In addition to the issues raised by Fitchard, there are at least two more: balloons are inherently temporary, and (as an extension of that) there’s no terrestrial infrastructure controlled locally. Do people in Namibia want their internet access controlled by an American company?