Via Daring Fireball, this is now a bit old but worth mentioning for this sentence alone:
[Kathleen Kennedy] will serve as the brand manager for
Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business
to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global
Now that’s what fans want to hear: a major, well-loved, culturally significant creative work was sold to global lines of business so they can maximize its value.
Translation: they’re going to beat Star Wars to death even more than George Lucas did, extracting every possible penny out of it until there’s no more money to be made. And that’s probably a long way off.
Disney’s plans to further integrate this global franchise will make Lucas look conservative in retrospect.
This week’s (late) podcast: “Superstorm” Sandy aftermath, Scott Forstall’s forced exit from Apple, the iPad Mini and iPad “4”, the Microsoft Surface and Windows RT, Disney’s plans for Lucasfilm, and hosting servers in natural-disasters.
It is expensive
The Surface is cheaper than an iPad. The base model Surface has 32GB of storage and is $499. The 32GB iPad Wi-Fi is $599. But, what about the Touch Cover? A 32GB Surface with Touch Cover is $599. A 32GB iPad with Smart Cover is $638. And that doesn’t include a keyboard.
Mr. Pants reminded me of a pricing trick I’ve wanted to point out for a while.
Flash-memory upgrades on tablets are much cheaper for the manufacturers than the $100 increments that Apple established with the original iPad pricing. The nonlinear pricing gives it away: why does the first $100 buy 16 GB more than the preceding size, while the second $100 buys another 32 GB?
Obviously, the $100 increments are arbitrary, because it’s mostly profit: the flash memory used in most iPad-like tablets costs about $1 per GB or less, not the $6.25 per GB that Apple charges us to upgrade from 16 to 32 GB. Since the other components are all identical between different-capacity models, we can surmise that a 32 GB iPad is about $84 more profitable than the 16 GB model.
Microsoft’s price of $499 for a 32 GB Surface is clever and aggressive: by adding only about $16 to its component costs, it makes people compare its price to Apple’s cash-cow $599 model, and the Surface seems like a better buy.
Why, then, isn’t there a 16 GB Surface? Presumably, it’s a combination of two factors. Windows RT needs 7–8 GB for itself, so a 16 GB model would leave relatively little room for the customer’s apps and files.
But the bigger reason is that the storage-price upgrade trick works against them in the other direction. Customers would expect a 16 GB Surface to cost $100 less, and Microsoft might only save $16 on the component costs. A 16 GB Surface would be about $84 less profitable. In this business, especially for a new, low-volume player, that can easily push the device far into the red.
It’s far easier for the Surface to appear to be cheaper than the iPad by starting at 32 GB than by starting at $399.
This is also why the iPad Mini starts at $329 for 16 GB, rather than a cheaper 8 GB model: people said it was only $80 more than the Nexus 7, because they were comparing its price to the $249 16 GB Nexus 7 instead of the $199 8 GB model. A few days ago, Google played the game in the other direction, widening the gap considerably, by doubling the capacities at the same price points. Now, the 16 GB Nexus 7 is $199, making the $329 iPad Mini seem considerably more expensive.
This game works, especially in the downward-price-pressure direction, because consumers and the press overemphasize specs when comparing tech devices. In practical use, though, most people don’t need more than the entry-level capacities. The gigabyte-matching tricks cloud these comparisons, but in reality, the entry-level price is what matters most: it will be advertised most, it will get people into the store, it’s the best value, and it’s the hardest price for the manufacturer to drop because it’s the least profitable.
A Kindle Fire is $159. A Nexus 7 is $199. An iPad is $329. A Microsoft Surface is $499.
Apple’s been selling midrange and high-end products at midrange and high-end prices for years, trying to get people to compare (sorry) apples-to-apples, but it just doesn’t sink in: Apple still has an “expensive” reputation, mostly because they don’t address the unprofitable low end of any market.
The Surface is a decent deal, but it is also expensive: not compared to the iPad at the same storage level, but relative to the market. That’s what customers see, and that’s how the Surface will be compared.
This week’s podcast: settings in the Settings app, full-screen modes, text adjustment options in Instapaper and The Magazine, choosing fonts for apps, building a custom CMS versus customizing an existing one, white-labeling The Magazine, and over-roasted coffee.
And this choice turns on two questions: how good a president has Mr Obama been, especially on the main issues of the economy and foreign policy? And can America really trust the ever-changing Mitt Romney to do a better job? On that basis, the Democrat narrowly deserves to be re-elected.
I disagree with some of the details, but they nail the big picture: Obama has left plenty to complain about, but Romney would be worse.
Apple’s software problems aren’t dark linen, Corinthian leather or torn paper. In fact, Apple’s software problems aren’t much about aesthetics at all…they are mostly about experience. To paraphrase Ive’s former boss, Apple’s software problems aren’t about how they look, but how they work.
The list of Apple software and services that need to work better is getting longer as we’re arguing about how their toolbars should look.
I know none of the available choices are perfect. I wish we had more than two viable choices. But governments can neither satisfy everyone all the time nor impose massive changes rapidly: all they can do is try to make choices that help the most people, and make incremental changes over time to achieve significant long-term progress.
As voters, we have a similar responsibility: even when none of the options are perfect for us, or even particularly great, we must choose to make incremental progress. Choosing to do nothing by abstaining isn’t making a statement at all: it’s neglecting our society and impeding the progress you believe is necessary.
From Patrick Gibson’s review of the 13” Retina MacBook Pro:
While the Retina screen contains something on the order of a trillion pixels (or so it feels like), the effective screen size is actually smaller than the 13” MacBook Air. The effective size of the 13” MacBook Air is 1440 × 900, whereas the Retina MacBook Pro is 1280 × 800. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, it isn’t, but it does make a difference.
This shouldn’t be much of a problem for most 13” Retina buyers since the 13” MacBook Pro has only ever had a (pathetic) 1280 × 800 screen (and has sold extremely well despite it), but it will definitely be noticeable for people like Patrick who are accustomed to the 13” MacBook Air’s higher-resolution screen.
The 15” Retina has a similar effective-space downgrade: its native resolution is 1440 × 900 points, while the non-Retina 15” has had a 1680 × 1050 option for years.
As Patrick says, the 13” Retina, like the 15” Retina, can scale to a simulated 1680 × 1050, but it doesn’t look nearly as good. I’ve also found that when the 15” is running one of these scaled modes, it has noticeably worse scrolling performance.
In practice, I switch my 15” Retina between native and simulated-1680 depending on what I’m doing: native for writing and internet timewasting, and simulated-1680 for programming. (The 15” also offers a simulated 1920 × 1200 option, but everything’s too small for my comfort.)
The hour was so late because Mitt Romney had taken so long to concede that he had lost. The interval included some transfixingly odd moments on Fox News, involving Karl Rove and reports that the Romney campaign might want to contest just about everything; then they realized that there was nothing practical to contest. Romney came out onstage alone. He said that his wife would have been a wonderful First Lady, that he would pray for Obama and his family, and that he believed in America. For this, he was praised afterward in the effusive way a person often is when others are done with him. He sounded like a man who had no idea why he’d lost.
I found Romney’s concession speech painful and insincere: an unsurprising end to his campaign.
I got hundreds of emails and tweets asking for Glacier support. Turns out it’s a good option for some scenarios (even with the slow restore time and possible extra Amazon charges). People want to use it for big stuff like iPhoto libraries, videos, etc that get too expensive in S3. They use it as a secondary backup, so they don’t expect to actually restore unless their whole house burns down, taking their primary backup with it.
This is exactly how I use online backup, and how you should: as a secondary or tertiary backup in case my primary drives, my Time Machine drive, and my SuperDuper clone all simultaneously fail or are lost. (Such a scenario could be possible if, for instance, a massive power surge blows through my UPS and fries my Mac Pro and everything connected to it while the SuperDuper clone is connected.)
I’ve read great things about Arq and wanted to use it for a long time, but my huge backup set (about 800 GB) made it poorly price-competitive with Backblaze, my current online-backup service of choice. But with support for Amazon’s new, limited, much cheaper Glacier storage, Arq is now in the ballpark.
The industry of writing inflammatory bullshit about Apple is booming.
It’s booming partially because writing inflammatory Apple headlines gets a lot of clicks. Apple is popular and the dominant player in many industries, so anything that attacks it will attract attention.
But it’s also booming because we all keep linking to the bullshit. We, Apple-and-related writers, link to it from our blogs or Twitter accounts. We point and laugh at the most humorously wrong sentence, or we rebut its points one by one.
We think we’re taking them down, but we’re just taking the bait. And then all of our readers and followers take the bait, and we support the bullshit by sending pageviews.
I enjoy an occasional humorous takedown of one of these by the people who do it best: John Gruber and The Macalope. But even they sometimes do it more than they need to (although it’s The Macalope’s job), and we don’t all need to pile on.
If you truly dislike bullshit writing and don’t want to support it, hit the publishers where it hurts: don’t read it, and don’t link to it.
If you’re an unreasonable person, trust me: the time it takes to find the best of something is completely worth it.
This is why I research and review everyday objects like light bulbs: I have no patience for poorly working, poorly designed, or low-quality products.
Dustin suggests that the goal of caring about this stuff is achieving trust in your tools to work. For me, that’s part of it, but I also consciously notice and ruthlessly eliminate tiny frustrations. As Joel wrote circa 1900:
So that’s what days were like. A bunch of tiny frustrations, and a bunch of tiny successes. But they added up. Even something which seems like a tiny, inconsequential frustration affects your mood. Your emotions don’t seem to care about the magnitude of the event, only the quality.
And I started to learn that the days when I was happiest were the days with lots of small successes and few small frustrations.
App publishers: watch website visitors turn into app users. If you have a mobile or desktop app, your website may be a neglected resource. Tapstream ties your website visits to app actions like activations, In-App Purchases or sign-ups. Watch which site pages or external sites drive app activations and which social campaigns are working best, or simply split test landing pages to find the winner. Made for iOS, Mac OS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8 apps.
And this week, Marco’s readers get a deal on any Tapstream tier: 50% off for a full 6 months. Try it today.
Thanks to Tapstream for sponsoring the Marco.org RSS feed this week.
Two weeks ago, I hired Glenn Fleishman as Executive Editor to help considerably with the editing duties. He knows the business much better than I do, and will help sort through submissions, edit, and work with authors to develop articles. To complement these roles, in addition to my required administrative and technical tasks, I’m serving as Editorial Director: deciding which pitches to accept and arranging each issue.
My rule of thumb is to ignore anything that is stupid and languishing in obscurity. But if it’s stupid and published on a high-traffic site, or it’s an expression of a widely-held misconception, it’s often worth addressing, bullshit or not.
But if the article is being read by a lot of people and is intentionally misinforming them, I think we should call them out and correct it. Otherwise the spin and lies will propagate.
Makes sense: high-profile misinformation deserves to be corrected by other high-profile sites.
Maybe a better rule would be: if many of my readers are likely to have read the bullshit, and it hasn’t already been well-refuted by other sites they’re also likely to read (like Daring Fireball), it might be worth refuting publicly.
With the recent disastrous weather, a lot of people have lost power for many days and are looking to be more prepared for the next time. Generators can help on a large scale, but not everyone can practically use them (like most people in apartments), and the portable ones are only good until you run out of their fuel. But more importantly for this post, I don’t know anything about them, so I’ll assume you don’t have one.
If you just want to charge an iPhone,1 I can be a bit more useful. Here are your options:
Most extended-battery iPhone cases can only provide a partial iPhone charge before they’re depleted. Some of the very large external brick-like packs are worth up to two or three charges. But that’s about it. These can carry you through a power outage for a day or two if you’re lucky, but probably less, especially if you’re using your iPhone a lot because you can’t do much else.
This hand-crank charger (via Daring Fireball) sounds like a good idea but probably isn’t, and it probably isn’t worth $60. While your hand-cranking power is “renewable” and effectively unlimited, it’s probably going to take a lot of cranking for a full iPhone charge. (I can’t find any specifics on it, unfortunately.)
The PowerFilm solar AA charger uses unlimited, renewable, free solar energy. But it’s very slow: it takes many hours of strong, direct sunlight to charge a pair of NiMH AA batteries (the most common rechargeable type today), and they’re only good for about half of an iPhone charge through its USB output port. I got one of these for a group camping trip a couple of years ago as an unlimited-capacity last resort, but we didn’t use it much because it was too slow. It’s also probably not worth $70.
The standout hit of the camping trip, by far, was the Tekkeon AA-battery USB charger. It’s built cheaply and doesn’t even feel like it’s worth $20. But you can get nearly two full iPhone charges from a set of four AA batteries, if you use the right kind. The obvious disadvantage is that you’ll eventually run out of batteries, but you can get AA batteries nearly anywhere, even in bad-weather panics (since most old flashlights use C and D batteries), and you probably already have a bunch of them lying around.
The type of AAs matters a lot, since it’s a high-current device able to drain its AA batteries within an hour or two. I did some tests with different batteries before the camping trip and found that standard alkaline AAs don’t get very far at all, but NiMH rechargeables are passable, and (non-rechargeable) lithium AAs are the best by far. Lithium AAs are more expensive than alkalines, but they’re perfect for stockpiling for this sort of use: they have extremely long and stable shelf lives, they don’t care what temperature it is, and if this matters to you, they weigh almost nothing. (And if you get to the store after everyone else has already panicked and bought their supplies, they’ll be the only batteries left since they’re the most expensive.)
If I had $70 to spend on this problem, instead of a hand-crank or solar charger with a tiny capacity, I’d rather have the Tekkeon AA box and 40 lithium AAs, which could power my iPhone for about a month of frequent use. If I actually lose power for an entire month and burn through them all, presumably I will have spent part of that month finding some way to get a few extra AA batteries. And if that’s not possible, I probably have much bigger problems.
If you want to charge an iPad, none of these solutions will work very well, if at all. iPad batteries, especially on the Retina models, are almost as large as laptop batteries, and that’s just too much power for any of these to reasonably provide. Some of the biggest external lithium-ion battery packs can give a partial Retina iPad charge at most, but that’s not going to get you very far.
The Tekkeon AA pack won’t charge any full-sized iPad. It will charge an iPad Mini, but in the “Not Charging” state — the slowest mode that only charges when the screen’s off. I don’t want to burn another set of lithium AAs to find out how far they go with a Mini, but I wouldn’t expect more than about 75% of a full charge. ↩︎
This week’s podcast: music under podcast ads, TextMate 2 activity, the costs of pagination in Instapaper and The Magazine, scientific support of “low-acid” coffee benefits, every cure for male hair loss and baldness, and affiliate-marketing spam.
Sources have said the move came amid growing tension between Sinofsky and other top executives. Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team player that the company was looking for. The move is likened by some to the recent ouster at Apple of iOS head Scott Forstall.
Sometimes Microsoft copies Apple a little too closely.
Seriously, though (MICROSOFT FANS: THAT WAS A JOKE), the timing of this right after a major Windows change looks pretty bad. Imagine if Forstall had been fired right after the first iPhone shipped.
It’s much better than the iPad 3 and 4 to handle, carry, and hold up during use. It has the best external design of any iPad to date. It runs cooler than the iPad 3 or 4, it has almost the same battery life despite its much smaller size and weight, and it matches the iPad 2 and 3 in most performance benchmarks. It charges more quickly than the iPad 3 or 4, and it’s more versatile in charging, since it’s the first iPad able to charge at full speed from an “iPhone” AC adapter. The Smart Cover even sticks to the back better when it’s flipped around.
And, of course, it’s much cheaper than the other iPads.
But the non-Retina screen is rough. If you’ve never used a Retina-screened device, you probably won’t care, but if you’ve been spoiled by Retina, you’ll notice the lack of it in the Mini almost every time you turn it on. I stop noticing after I start doing something with it, of course, but those first few seconds are a rough reminder every time.
The iPad Mini is conflictingly high-end and low-end. It’s the cheapest, “entry-level” model, but since this is Apple and this is their second-most-important product, it’s not bad, much like the 11” MacBook Air. On the contrary, the screen is the only thing about the iPad Mini that feels low-end. If they release a Retina iPad Mini next fall — and I don’t expect one earlier — no part of it is likely to feel low-end except the price, a recipe for a fantastic product.
Despite being the cheapest model, the Mini has top-notch build quality and materials. Almost every hardware spec is great: great battery life, great performance, great storage and cellular-data options. It doesn’t feel cheap at all, and no part of it feels like it was short-changed or underpowered because of price alone.
Including the screen.
A Retina screen at iPad resolution has a much higher cost than the price of the panel. I’m convinced that the other tradeoffs and costs are why the Mini doesn’t have a Retina screen.
This isn’t theoretical: we can see the cost of Retina for ourselves with the iPads 3 and 4. The iPad 3 was the first Retina iPad and showed us the initial issues, and the iPad 4 shows us the best Retina iPad that Apple could ship with the technological improvements available since the iPad 3.
We can see that a Retina iPad screen is a much bigger power hog than a non-Retina screen of the same size. That’s why the iPad 3 needed to be thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, and why it takes so long to charge: the battery is huge. The iPad 4 has roughly the same size, weight, and battery as the iPad 3, so we know that technological progress hasn’t been able to meaningfully shrink it yet.
And we can see that pushing four times the pixels needs four times the GPU power to keep performance similar to the non-Retina equivalent, especially in games. To achieve this, the iPad 3’s A5X needed to be inelegant: it was physically huge, it drew a lot of power, and it ran noticeably warm even under routine tasks like web browsing. The iPad 4 was able to improve significantly with the much faster, die-shrunk A6X, but its GPUs still need a lot of power and it still runs warm.
It’s not hard to imagine, given what we see with the iPad 3 and 4, what an iPad Mini with a Retina screen would be like with today’s technology. Its battery life, portability, or performance would suffer significantly. (Probably all three.)
Apple didn’t make an arbitrary decision to withhold Retina on the Mini to save money, upsell more buyers to the iPad 4, or “force” the first generation of iPad Mini owners to upgrade next year. They chose not to ship a Retina iPad Mini because it would be significantly worse than the previous iPads in very important factors.
Imagine the fallout if a Retina Mini shipped with only three hours of battery life, or was inelegantly thick and heavy. Or, very importantly to the iPad’s market, imagine if its GPUs were slower and it ran existing iPad games extremely poorly. And then add the component-price differences: imagine a Retina iPad Mini that was bulkier, shorter-running, or much slower (or all three) and that started at $399 instead of $329.
That’s why we don’t have a Retina iPad Mini yet. It’s not only about price: it’s because the resulting product would suck in at least two other important ways.
Until a good Retina iPad Mini can be made, it will be an unfortunately conflicted product: high-end in every way except the screen, which is a big one. But this tradeoff is anything but arbitrary.
Igloo makes software for humans. Humans that need to work together. Humans
that need to share files, talk to each other, and get shit done. Humans
that are, infallibly, human.
That means Igloo can help you connect with your employees, or engage
your customers with your braaand. And with Q, Igloo’s latest release,
it’s become much easier. Q is a free update for all Igloo customers. And
with over 25 new features, like email-enabled posting, it works the way
Want to write a blog? You can do it inside the Igloo web interface (you
can even add your own HTML). But what if your old-school project manager
doesn’t know what a blog is? That’s okay, they can post a blog via email.
Rich text, cat pictures and all. Boom.
I haven’t noticed any percievable speed differences between the two modes, although there are certain cases where you might want to avoid this mode.
There are actually significant, effectively fatal performance problems (such as 30-second loading delays, or longer) on mobile devices when using optimizeLegibility for long pages. Apply it only if you know what the maximum text length will be. (Also, avoid using it for Android clients, at least on the older versions that everyone still uses: its font renderer often has very strange bugs when this mode is enabled.)
I did some testing with Instapaper to determine approximate optimizeLegibility performance limits. A 5,000-word article in Instapaper for iOS, for instance, will only use optimizeLegibility on devices with an A5-class or greater CPU. To avoid problems on older iOS devices, I wouldn’t recommend using optimizeLegibility blindly and unconditionally on any pages longer than about 1,000 words. And I wouldn’t recommend enabling it on Android at all.
It’s great for bathroom use: it’s small, loud, wireless via Bluetooth, and battery-powered, so you don’t need to plug it into the precious few outlets that most bathrooms have. And running a wire across the bathrom would almost certainly be met with a spousal veto.
The original Jambox, while it’s a delightful product otherwise, has two major flaws for this use. It vibrates so much with bassy songs at high volumes that it can easily vibrate itself off the edge of whatever it’s sitting on. (Fortunately, it’s also very durable.) And while it’s impressively loud for its size, it can’t get loud enough for spoken podcasts to be heard consistently clearly in a noisy shower.
Left to right: Bose SoundLink, Big Jambox in white (pardon the Moiré), and original Jambox in black (pardon its perma-dust coating). Both Jamboxes come in other colors as well.
It dramatically solves both of the original Jambox’s flaws: it can get much louder (and sounds much better along the way), and it keeps itself firmly planted. (Even its Sandwich Video is better.)
It also has dramatically better battery life. I thought the original Jambox had great battery life: under my typical use of 15–30 minutes per day of high-volume podcast or music playback over Bluetooth, the original Jambox lasted about 10 days. The Big Jambox lasts about a month in the same use.
Big Jambox in its natural habitat next to the shower.
But it’s also much less portable. The original Jambox can easily be carried around in most laptop bags. The Big Jambox will fit (awkwardly) into bigger bags, but it doesn’t just look like a brick: it’s noticeably dense, and therefore quite heavy for its size. It’s “portable” the same way 17” laptops are portable: you can bring it with you, but you won’t want it on your shoulder.
Neither Jambox sounds great while playing music, but I have high standards for “great” sound quality that have never been met by any Bluetooth, AirPlay, or Dock-port speakers. I’d say the sound quality from the original Jambox is what you’d expect if a 15” MacBook Pro’s speakers could get much louder, and the sound quality (and maximum volume) of the Big Jambox is comparable to most midrange AC-powered iPod/iPhone speaker docks. Both Jamboxes achieve volume levels that are surprisingly high for battery-powered speakers, especially given their sizes.
Both sound great while playing podcasts, but the Big Jambox sounds better. And if you want to listen to podcasts in the shower, you’ll probably need the Big’s higher volume.
The Jamboxes’ design is polarizing. Most audio products that come from the computer industry’s vicinity (anything with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or a Dock connector) look hideous, tacky, and cheap.1 Or, like the Bose SoundLink, like it came from a SkyMall catalog in 1997. Personally, I think the Big Jambox, in white (and only in white), is better-looking than any other useful Bluetooth or AirPlay speaker I’ve seen.
Both Jamboxes feel like very high-quality products. They both come with a full set of power and audio cables, and they’re filled with nice little touches, including the tasteful-yet-cool startup and pairing sounds.
The Bluetooth interface on both is rock-solid — it’s much more reliable, and much less buggy on iOS devices, than the AirPlay speaker in my kitchen. If you’ll usually have the same device sending audio to a speaker, and it’ll always be within about 15 feet, I highly recommend Bluetooth over AirPlay. And the Big Jambox is the best Bluetooth speaker that I’ve found.
I strongly recommend the Big Jambox, as long as you don’t need to carry it around very often.
I can also recommend the original Jambox, but with hesitation: it’s only the better choice if the price difference or portability are most important to you.
Can we start a coalition or something to ban blue LEDs? Please? We, as a society, have shown that we can’t use them responsibly. ↩︎
Remember when Twitter said that client-app developers would need to “work with us directly” and “need our permission” to exceed 100,000 user-login tokens?
Well, now we know what that means. Atta Elayyan, developer of the Tweetro client for Windows 8, sent Windows Observer the result of his attempt to get Twitter’s permission. Here’s what the quadrant robot at Twitter wrote:
Thank you for reaching out to get clarification on our developer policies. As you know, we discourage developers from building apps that replicate our core user experience (aka “Twitter clients”). We know that there are developers that want to take their passion for Twitter and its ecosystem to unique underserved situations. As such, we have built some flexibility into our policy with regard to user tokens – which went into effect September 5th, 2012.”
… Unfortunately, It does not appear that your service addresses an area that our current or future products do not already serve. As such, it does not qualify for an exemption.
In other words: “Even though we don’t currently have a Windows 8 client, we might have one in the future, so yours isn’t allowed.”
The wording of the supposed “rule” that permits apps addressing “unique underserved situations” is so vague, especially since being “served” includes potentially being served by Twitter’s future products, that it’s effectively meaningless.
The real rule, if Twitter was honest and direct, is simple: “We don’t permit anyone to exceed the limit unless we feel like it.” But even then, it would be stupid for anyone to build a business on Twitter with such unstable footing. And if your plan is to stay under the 100,000-token limit, you’d be a fool to believe in the safety and longevity of that exemption.
The effective rule, therefore, is even simpler: “Don’t build anything for Twitter.”
Recently, I’ve felt my current podcast, Build and Analyze, getting stale and repetitive. We’ve had a great run, and I’ve greatly enjoyed doing it, but it has run its course. I’d rather end it now than slide into mediocrity — imagine if The Wire ended after season 4, Six Feet Under ended after season 3, or Arrested Development ended right before Michael met Rita.
Anyway, Dan Benjamin and I have agreed that the last episode of Build and Analyze will be December 17. Thank you to everyone who has listened, written, asked questions, and rated the show.
We’re in a golden age of geeky podcasting right now, especially thanks to 5by5 and the road that Dan paved with it, and there’s no shortage of other great developer-related podcasts. Some of my recent favorites, if you’re looking to satisfy your developer-podcast needs:
Unprofessional: For when you need a break from tech podcasts, but you still like tech people.
After Build and Analyze ends, I’d like to take a few weeks off for the holidays, be a guest on other shows, and then experiment with new shows, topics, and formats to try to figure out what I want to do next in the world of podcasting.
Build and Analyze has been a blast and a pleasure. Thank you.
Everyone keeps asking me about this New York Times post:
Apple argued that its patented page turn was unique in that it had a special type of animation other page-turn applications had been unable to create.
They didn’t patent all page-turns — just page-turns that look (and, presumably, work) like iBooks’.
And I don’t think this is going to cause any problems for Instapaper or any other iOS app. Instapaper implements the iBooks-style page-turning with Apple’s own UIPageViewController API, available since iOS 5 for exactly this purpose. Patents on it are no more problematic than iOS apps using Apple’s patented multitouch gestures or the scroll-bounce effect that comes “for free” with the use of other standard iOS components.
It sucks that the patent system works the way it does, but given that we’re probably not getting rid of it in any of our lifetimes, it’s also very important that Apple, like any big tech company, plays the patent game by filing as many as they can. I don’t see any big problems with this one in particular.
On this week’s podcast: the upcoming end of the show, encounters with Scott Forstall and MC Hammer, Passbook apps and promotion, how to decide when to start a new project, PayPal’s subscription problems, and the economics of one-time app payments.
Meanwhile, Google, specifically Android, has been steadily improving its entire platform. To me, it still doesn’t have the same quality of polish and feel that Apple software does. However, it’s getting harder to argue that point, especially since their web services all tend to Just Work. Features like Google Now and near-instant voice commands are starting to give Android a serious leg up on iOS.
Hard to argue with his point, his solution, and his doubt that it will happen.
Apple has a serious problem: in this era of deep social- and web-service integration, their products don’t “just work” nearly as often as they used to.
Boom is a Mac volume booster and equalizer that improves audio quality system-wide. It increases the system volume and can enhance audio with a graphic equalizer to produce better-quality sound from your Mac’s built-in speakers.
Boom is simple to use! It won Macworld’s prestigious Best of Show award for its simplicity, elegance, and well-crafted interface.
Improve your audio quality and volume when doing anything on your Mac, including watching movies, listening to music, and video-chatting, without using external speakers.
The first episode of 5by5’s new show with rotating hosts and topics. This one’s Dan, Merlin, and me discussing forums, comments, controlling online communities, Tumblr attribution design, link blogs, and “curation”.
On this happy “Cyber Monday” (how incredibly stupid), Dan and I discussed journalists mangling quotes, the decline of upgradeable hardware, how to tell if a price is negotiable, why many publications don’t take full advantage of Newsstand, protecting assets inside app bundles, and deciding whether to burn an expedited review.
Craig Mod’s amazing essay on what’s next for the publishing industry:
In product design, the simplest thought exercise is to make additions. It’s the easiest way to make an Old Thing feel like a New Thing. The more difficult exercise is to reconsider the product in the context of now. A now which may be very different from the then in which the product was originally conceived.
Even though a lot of it is about The Magazine so it’s fairly self-congratulatory for me to link to it, it’s still a fantastic article.
This clever piece of bathroom hardware embeds a speaker in the middle of a full-spray showerhead. And not just any speaker — a Bluetooth-compatible speaker that lets you recharge it on the counter, snap it back into the showerhead using the embedded magnets, and play music wirelessly from your phone or tablet.
A decent idea, but you could probably get much more volume and better sound quality (and much more versatility if you ever want to use it elsewhere) out of a Big Jambox for $100 more (or, currently, just $67 more if you choose white, my favorite of its colors).
This also might be a missed opportunity: could it be reasonably economical and reliable to build in a little turbine, propelled by the water flowing through it, that generated enough electricity to power the speaker and recharge a small buffer battery (with enough capacity to add a few minutes of use before and after the shower)?
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.
If that’s not wrong, then hey, no need to write long articles about how they’ve really backed you into a corner. If you think it is wrong, then act like a grownup and wait until you can buy it legally.
I completely agree. I discussed this in Build and Analyze #83 (from 14 to 17 minutes in). If you can’t watch something legally until it comes out on Netflix or whatever service you use, you have only two justifiable options: either wait, or don’t watch it.
Realistically, nobody’s going to stop you from pirating it, but you can’t argue that you’re justified in pirating it. 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.
If you want to hit cable companies, HBO, etc. where it hurts — if you truly want to send a message that there’s unmet demand they should be addressing — don’t watch their shows. At all. Don’t even pirate them. Don’t blog or tweet or face (?) about how good they are. Just don’t watch them.
That’s a real statement. And if enough people do it, that movement will effect change.
As expected, I’ve already received a lot of feedback on my justifying-piracy post from this morning. I’d like to expand on this part:
You’re not making any kind of statement or participating in a movement [by pirating] — you’re just being cheap and/or impatient.
Actually, piracy does make a statement — it’s just the wrong statement. If you truly want to pressure content providers to adapt new distribution channels, and you’re not just trying to justify getting everything for free, piracy is hurting your cause.
Most geeks try to justify piracy because the content isn’t available on our terms. We can’t get it in our country, we can’t get it as quickly as we want, it costs more than we want to pay, we can’t get it on the device we want, or we can’t get it in the format we want. Publishers have a distribution problem.
But when publishers see widespread piracy of their content, they don’t see the distribution problem. They think they have a piracy problem.
Publishers believe (with mixed success) that piracy problems can be solved by force: existing laws are being mostly ignored and violated en masse, so the publishers lobby Congress for stronger laws and pressure ISPs for stricter enforcement. The more they fight on this front, the more likely that their anti-technology, anti-internet efforts will actually pass and hurt legitimate online activity and businesses.
Pirating adds to that problem and encourages publishers that they need to fight harder in that direction.
But distribution is completely their fault. They can’t blame anyone else. Insufficient distribution or unappealing terms are problems that they need to solve, not legislators, lawsuits, ISPs, or law enforcement.
Adding to their distribution problem without contributing to their piracy problem is the most effective way to encourage them to make the kind of progress we want.
My wife and I have been using a pair of these in our Elevation Docks for about a week and have come to the same conclusions.
The docks (designed for the iPhone 4S) cost $59 each on Kickstarter in February but didn’t arrive until September, shortly before the release of the iPhone 5, due to significant production delays. I’m not sure how much blame falls on Elevation Lab for the delays, but they had remarkably bad luck with the timing of the Dock connector’s retirement.
The Elevation Dock with the iPhone 4S is great and a pleasure to use. To cope with the Lightning port, Elevation Lab just released a $15 adapter that replaces most of the guts in the original Dock, and they now offer an $89 “iPhone 5” Dock with the adapter preinstalled.
The adapter works: the iPhone 5 can mount in the Elevation Dock with it. The instructions are terse, vague, and printed in dark blue ink on black paper, but installation is still easy.
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.
The primary appeal of the original Elevation Dock was the ease of removing your iPhone from it. Apple’s crappy little docks were so lightweight that you’d need to annoyingly hold them down while removing the phone, often requiring two hands. Elevation Lab made a great video on Kickstarter demonstrating how frustrating other docks were, and showing how easily the iPhone lifted out of their heavy base with their custom, low-friction connector.
We all saw that video and knew that frustration, and that’s why they were able to far surpass their Kickstarter goal so easily. And with the iPhone 4S, it really did work that well, once we eventually got our Elevation Docks.
But with the Lightning adapter, the Elevation Dock works like all of the other docks in that video.
Apple’s Lightning plug holds very securely, nothing like Elevation’s original low-friction connector. They subtly hint at this in the adapter’s description:
Your dock will have as much friction as your Apple cord does now, which you can test.
It’s even harder to remove the iPhone 5 from the Elevation Dock than I expected. It requires two hands almost every time, and it makes me want to throw the Dock out the window. The Lightning connector on Apple’s cables not only wasn’t designed for this use, but substantially hinders it.
I initially thought that quickly offering an “adapter” that simply mounted an Apple Lightning cable was a clever solution for Elevation Lab to offer upset Dock owners: it was much faster, simpler, and cheaper than it would have been to work with Apple and make an official Lightning accessory.
But now that I have it, I can see that it’s not a solution at all: it’s a bad hack. It doesn’t work very well, it ruins the Elevation Dock’s appeal, and the total cost is embarrassing for its actual utility.
I hope that Elevation Lab can someday work with Apple to release a dock with a real low-friction Lightning connector that restores the short-lived usefulness and elegance that the original Elevation Dock offered for the iPhone 4S, because their current solution is neither useful nor elegant.