Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for May 27th, 2014

“I’m a Developer. I Can Take It.”

Daniel Jalkut has had a much better experience with Apple’s bug reporting system than Marco Arment, largely because he files way more bug reports: 161 in five years, besting my 151 in four (though my yearly average is still higher; neener neener). But, while Jalkut points out that Arment’s 15 bugs in five years is a pittance, I empathize a little with Arment. Apple’s bug reporting system is frequently a black hole, and that doesn’t necessarily encourage developers to file more bug reports.

I do side with Jalkut in that you will get out of filing bug reports what you put into them. I’ve filed bug reports of dubious immediacy and seriousness1, and I’ve filed reports for things I’m certain are duplicates, if only to “vote” on them.

But I’ve also filed reports which I would assume would be closed immediately as duplicates, only to find that they would be left open and then fixed.2 It’s far from a perfect or ideal system, sometimes it makes me a believer.

  1. “Web Inspector close/detach buttons are too close together”, which is #15748981, Cupertino-area readers. Please fix this. ↩︎

  2. I believe the improved quality of synced photos from iPhoto and Aperture to iOS devices from iOS 4 to 5 is a direct result of a bug I filed in 2011. ↩︎

“Feature” #3598533

It’s not just Apple that has issues with their bug reporting system — Adobe does, too. This is probably my favourite bug report I’ve ever filed:

Title: Automatic updates do not automatically download, install, or update

Problem Description: Despite “automatically download and install updates” having been selected since an older version of Flash Player, updates have always been required to be manually downloaded and installed.

Obvious bug, right? Because Adobe’s bug reporter is public, you can see the response I received:

Thanks very much for your report. I think it’s a good advice and we will consider this suggestion seriously as an enhancement.

As it’s not a bug, I will close it.

Sure enough, its status was changed to “NotABug” and it was unceremoniously closed. To which I replied:

Not to be rude, but how is this not a bug? The radio button clearly states that it should do something which it does not.

And have yet to receive an answer, nearly a year later. This problem still hasn’t been fixed.

“File A Bug”

Marco Arment:

I’ve filed 15 bugs since 2009. Of those:

  • 8 have been marked as duplicates. All but two of the “origin” bugs remain open, despite two actually being fixed. Another two very different feature requests were marked as duplicates of the same origin, and since I can’t see the title of the origin, I have no way to know if either was a mischaracterization.
  • 6 have never received any kind of response and remain open.
  • 1 had Apple request a sample project, which I provided, then got no further response (and is still open).

I have a slightly larger sample size to draw from, but with similar results. Of 151 bugs filed since 2010:

  • 58 have been marked as duplicates;
  • 11 have been marked with “insufficient information” (though many of these are mis-marked and have sufficient information);
  • 10 have been marked as “behaves correctly”;
  • 34 remain open;
  • 38 have been closed for other reasons, or remain open but are not under the “Open” tab of the Bug Reporter.

It’s frustrating to be asked to recreate specific test cases and have very little in the way of followup, or to have the bug unceremoniously closed. The only time I’ve had reasonable dialogue when reporting bugs is during betas, when I will be asked whether an issue has been fixed in the latest version. But for most other software, this is a rarity, and bugs have remained in some kind of limbo for years.

Then again, I’m a designer, and not an engineer. Most of the bugs I’ve filed have been to point out UI design issues or functionality problems. If this is frustrating for me, imagine a developer trying to grapple with an extremely buggy API.

Photo Post-Production on an iPhone

Last night, I went on a photo walk with a couple of friends that I haven’t seen in a while. There’s nothing like wandering around a largely-empty financial core in late evening accompanied by two of the best storytellers I know — it’s inspirational. Even though I brought along my DSLR, one of my favourite photos of the night came from my iPhone. I thought you may be interested in the process behind the image.

Please note that I’m going to use affiliate links for the three apps in my workflow. That’s not the impetus for this post, though — this year’s bills are paid on the site. I personally recommend all of these apps, even if I’m not getting a kickback.

Step One: Original Image

Calgary’s relationship with architecture has been challenging, to put it mildly. As with any city, the focus on quality is dependent on the boom or bust cycle. In recent boom years, projects in the city have been bestowed with awards. Unfortunately, many of the skyscrapers that fill out our dense financial sector were built during booms in eras of bland, disappointing, and ugly architecture. Case in point: the Western Union Building. Built in 1964, it has an exterior that looked old and forlorn by 1966.

There’s something really endearing about its elevator lobby, though. As you might be able to see on Street View, it’s located in a small glass room at the base of the building, set back by a visitor parkling lot. It is truly a relic of the ’60s, complete with vintage Otis elevators, a large fluorescent ceiling grid, and an ashtray (!) right beside the elevator bank.

I took one photo on my DSLR, and two on my iPhone — a normal photo, and then a normal + HDR photo — using the native Camera app. The first iPhone image turned out the best, with decent focus and great exposure.

Original photo

Step Two: Filterstorm Neue

The first thing that needed to go was the reflection of the car beside the ashtray, on the lefthand side of the image. The clone stamp tool in Filterstorm Neue ($3.99) is perfect to take care of that. It’s very forgiving, so using it on a touch screen is pretty easy. I did a pretty quick-and-dirty job of removing the majority of the reflection, as it will be good enough for an Instagram-sized image.

Filterstorm edit

Step Three: SKRWT

I got to use my new favourite app on this image, and it’s way better for it. SKRWT’s ($0.99) lens distortion correction makes this image work. The modernist grid of this crazy lobby demands that the parallel lines are retained, and SKRWT makes it super easy to fix them.

SKRWT edit

Step Four: VSCO Cam

The venerable VSCO Cam (free, with in-app purchases) makes its appearance as the grading and finishing app. I used the H4 preset for a muted, cold feeling, and added some cream to the highlights and a little bit of green to the shadows to accentuate this. A little bit of sharpening and a crop, and it was ready for Instagram (after saving it to the camera roll, of course).

VSCO final edit

One thing that you might notice about this process is that re-saving a JPEG four times noticeably degrades its quality. I hope that iOS 8 brings a way for photo apps, especially, to work together a little better. I’d love to be able to pass a TIFF all the way through this process, as it would prevent a buildup of artifacts.

That being said, I am extremely happy with the result of this process on this particular image. This is one of my favourite photos that I’ve shot recently. I hope this process breakdown can give you a few ideas.

Vesper 2.0 with Sync

The most-requested feature of Vesper is (finally) here: you can now back up your notes to Vesper’s free storage service in the sky. But Vesper is still an iPhone-only app — there’s no iPad or Mac apps, or even a website where you can view your notes. So, while this is potentially a syncing service, it’s more of a backup service. For now.

Update Brent Simmons has confirmed that a Mac app is next. Very exciting.

The ROI of iCloud Photo Storage

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

I’ve been hearing that Apple is working on photo-related announcements for WWDC, and that all of the teams working on Photos, iPhoto and Aperture are finally unified under one group now. Hopefully this means that photos, and iCloud storage, will get some nice face time during the keynote next month. I have no idea if they will for sure, but they should.

This is one of the things I missed in my spitballing article that I certainly hope we see at WWDC.