OS X Yosemite has been out for many months now, but I hadn't tried to use a couple of its new 'Continuity' features - namely, Handoff and Instant Hotspot - until recently.
I say "tried to" because I couldn't actually use either of those features on my mid-2011 Mac mini. I turned on my iPhone's bluetooth (which I usually keep off), connected it to my Mac, and because I knew my Mac had Bluetooth LE-compatible hardware, I assumed it would work.
Notice two incompatible models in particular; the mid-2011 Mac mini and MacBook Air. With the help of this simple utility, both of these Macs can use all of Continuity's features without any additional dongles because they already have the requisite hardware. It only takes a flip of a yes/no switch in the system's configuration to allow the magic to happen.
So why not make those two models compatible? You could speculate that there are some weird bugs that crop up on the 2011 hardware (which I would re-speculate isn't the case, or wouldn't be insurmountable), but my best guess is that it:
A) wouldn't make for as clean a cut (it's easier to say "every Mac since 2012 is compatible") and B) Apple decided to use Continuity as an incentive for users to upgrade from their older 3+ year-old hardware
I don't like either of these reasons. Maybe my Windows upbringing has warped my perception of how long hardware should last, but three years seems too early to start withholding compatible features and nudging people to think about upgrading - especially when those users already have the necessary hardware built into their system.
I know that Apple and Microsoft are very different companies with very different approaches, but I still can't help from being a bit surprised by the chart above. 3 years (or two hardware iterations, whichever comes first) seems to be when Apple will start to subtly encourage Mac users to upgrade to the latest hardware, technical compatibility be darned.
I honestly don't even care enough about Handoff to install the utility - I just find it helpful to know that Apple thinks my Mac is ready to be replaced.
As a writer and toolsmith, I’ve found the rush to embrace these systems perplexing. Not because I’m curmudgeonly. Not because I fail to understand that people, including writers, enjoy things that are free and convenient.
Rather, because gentle scrutiny reveals that these systems are powered by a form of human fracking. To get his fracking permit on your territory, Mr. Williams (the multibillionaire) needs to persuade you (the writer) that a key consideration in your work (namely, how & where you offer it to readers) is a “waste of time.”
If you really believe that, then by all means, keep using the billionaire’s typewriter.
But if you have doubts, here’s a counterproposal.
Ideas that you spend multiple hours translating into carefully-edited words deserve to be published at a URL that you control, presented in exactly the way that you choose, and served by a platform that you can easily switch away from.
If you're not sure how to do those things and just want to quickly publish something on Medium for publicity and reach, then fine, do that, but don't expect much in the long-term from a VC-backed company with a nebulous monetization plan.
Learning how to own and control every component of Thinkerbit these past four years has been challenging, sure, but knowing that the kind of utter bullcrap below will never be displayed alongside the words that I write (except for now) is well worth it.
Update: Also see Jeffrey Zeldman's thoughts on Medium, and Bastian Allgeier's response. Using Medium to reach new readers and cross-posting what you write somewhere else is fine, except many, and likely the majority, of people who've written on Medium haven't cross-posted their content to a long-term home. That knowledge now lies within a single unprofitable walled garden, which makes the fact that Medium does have some good, quality content that's worth saving feel uncomfortable.
The App Store's lack of discounted upgrades is (still) a major pain that makes the App Store feel "like one of those novelty peanut cans with the snake inside"
Geeks are more than willing to buy quality software outside of the Mac App Store (after removing Coda, revenue went up significantly)
Compared to a previous App Store review dispute that was handled entirely offline, the recent public kerfluffle with Transmit for iOS was solved far more quickly with a simple phone call (which is unfortunate) and resulted in a sales spike
Their iOS apps don't make as much money as their Mac apps (possibly because they misjudged demand for niche professional apps on iOS)
I particularly liked what Steven had to say about Panic as a business:
Panic is a multi-million dollar business that has turned a profit for 17 years straight.
It just hit me, typing those words, that that’s a pretty insane thing to be able to say. (And, sure, we barely qualify). Believe me, I know it won’t last forever — but wow, what a kind of crazy deal.
... We still have no investors or debt. The overwhelming majority of our revenue goes to employee salaries and benefits, which is just the way we want it.... Anything left over goes into the magical Panic Savings Account for future projects or emergencies... (in the past we’ve actually reduced that warchest by simply distributing it to employees as a bonus.) We also continue to operate on standard office hours, avoiding weekends and crunchtimes with ferocious overprotectiveness, for better or worse. Maybe the most controversial thing we have is an open office, but since we have no sales or marketing teams things are usually library-quiet.
... the story of Panic is not about Steve and I anymore. These days, while both of us constantly dig in all sorts of trenches, more often we’re just the loud (well, I’m loud) backseat drivers — backseat drivers that often unfairly get all the glory. Let me be clear: Panic’s true asset, the thing I’m most proud of building, is the incredible team of 20 people who truly make everything happen, people who design and create these great things as a team, people who aren’t comfortable creating anything less than excellence, people I actually like.
I remember watching Planet Earth on my family's then-new HDTV back in the mid-2000's. It was kind of the 'killer app' that showcased the benefits of upgrading to a high definition television, and it made waiting for local news and cable stations to adopt HD more bearable.
It sounds like this new show could do the same for 4K video, and this time Netflix will be the one to provide it through the internet rather than cable. Neat.
We are all designers. You may call yourself a front-end developer, but if you spend hours shaving half-seconds off an interaction, that’s user experience and you, my friend, are a designer. If the client asks, “Can you migrate all my old content to the new CMS?” and you answer, “Of course we can, but should we?”, you are a designer.
Good thought, similar to what Mike Monteiro (strongly) believes but a little less straight-cut.
Just as the field of Engineering has a variety of sub-disciplines and specialties, so too does Design. We may focus on different aspects of making things better through design - maybe by improving website performance or simplifying the structure of a UI - but we're all of the same family.
Many of the students in Tufts' Human Factors / Engineering Psychology program aren't hired as such when they go out and look for jobs. Right now the title of "UX Designer" is growing, so that's what many of us call ourselves. That doesn't mean we're unqualified though - we've learned all the same skills, we just tend to look at design problems from a mixed humanistic & quantitative perspective.
The job title of "designer" is way more frequently associated with visual/graphic design than "engineer" is with any of its sub-disciplines, and history is largely to blame for that. Eventually that perception will change, but for now the large pool of design jobs will continue to have extra words tacked onto their beginnings and ends.
Interesting data on user behavior with touchscreens by Steven Hoober for UXmatters. The finding that users tend to move scrollable items to the middle of the screen before tapping them is particularly interesting.
This Vsauce video exploring the science behind the feeling of awkwardness is interesting as usual, but I'd like to draw particular attention to the last third, which discusses our built-in negativity bias, protagonist disease, and the fundamental attribution error.
A great wet blanket for smothering the fire of self-conscious anxieties is perspective. Consider the famous advice of Eleanor Roosevelt:
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
These concepts are among the most important and influential ones I've learned while in college. When you learn to look at awkward situations and mistakes from a zoomed-out perspective, getting over things and moving on becomes so much easier. Nowadays I can laugh at and (mostly) forget about the kinds of mistakes that would stress me out for days back in high school, and that's made my relationships with other people (and myself) so much more relaxed than it used to be.
Acknowledging this makes your awkwardness look small, but it also makes all of you look small. Tiny. A needle in a giant haystack. But, nonetheless, in possession of a big idea. Your blemishes are lost from far away, and so is your uniqueness, but the view from way up here, well, it's unbeatable.
I first heard about Firewatch when its website launched in December. Web developers were going gah gah over its clever and natural implementation of parallax.
The above 14-minute gameplay demo and reveal trailer have been doing a pretty good job of getting people excited about it, and I think the hint Panic dropped yesterday about the game launching on an "as-yet-undisclosed console" (something VR-related?) should fan the flames even more.
I like this style of marketing. Make something good, put a lot of energy behind a few well-executed public appearances, test it quietly with others, and (hopefully) be one of the games that VR companies use to launch their console. Smart.
The most effective ad in recent memory, not because it touts specific features of Android (we already know smartphones can do everything), but because it perfectly combines adorable animal pairs with a catchy Robinhood song and simply tells the viewer to "be together, not the same".
Is it a dig at Apple, telling the viewer not to be the same by sticking with iOS, or is it a fun-loving olive branch, showing how comfortably iOS and Android can get along together? That's for the viewer to decide, but the peace-signing Android at the end hints at the pure-hearted motive.
Amazing photos taken by Vincent Laforet from 7,500 feet above New York City. He did an interview here, and you can see the rest of the set on his site (which unfortunately isn't great at presenting them fullscreen).
These are pictures I've wanted to make since I was in my teens, but the cameras simply have not been capable of capturing aerial images from a helicopter at night until very recently.
Helicopters vibrate pretty significantly and you have to be able to shoot at a relatively high shutter speed (even with tools like a gyroscope) and that makes it incredibly difficult to shoot post sunset.
Armed with cameras such as the Canon 1DX and the Mamiya Leaf Credo 50 MP... I was finally able to capture some of the images that I've dreamed of capturing for decades.
This one toggle in OS X's Accessibility settings has massively sped up animations on my 2011 Mac mini. Mission Control is no longer a 2-frame slideshow, and switching between desktops is fluid once again.
It's dumb that this is even a solution, but hey, it works.
(Note: I feel like the automatically-checked "Reduce transparency" box is what's actually behind the speed improvement, but for whatever reason turning it on with "Increase contrast" turned off doesn't speed anything up for me. I wish I didn't have to live with the darker edges around windows, but for now the speed boost is more important.)
Last week my Dad got a 128GB, Core i5 Surface Pro 3, and of course I had to play around with it before I head back to Tufts for my last semester.
Here are some quick thoughts.
It literally stinks beyond compare
This caught me completely off guard. It's by far the worst smelling piece of technology I've ever smelled. It's typical for gadgets to have a unique out-of-factory smell to them, but the Surface cover emits a gas that's probably poisonous. Maybe it's the glue or the dye or something. Whatever it is, the cover assembly line should include an "airing out" stage prior to packaging.
The smell has mostly gone away after being open for a few days, but it's not exactly a great first impression.
Buying the cover separately makes sense, but still feels odd
You open the box up and there's plenty of space for a cover, but there isn't one. I knew this, of course, but it's an accessory that's so integral to the Surface's productivity claims that it really feels like it should be included, SKU count be darned.
The trackpad is only passable
For occasional navigation I think it's fine, but it's too small and too finicky to be comparable to a MacBook. Swipe gestures also seem to be disabled out of the box, which frankly doesn't surprise me.
After years of using a ThinkPad trackpoint (the red nubbin) my brother has gotten used to, and actually prefers, the trackpad of the Lenovo Yoga. I don't think anyone could like or really get used to the Surface's trackpad in the same way.
The keys aren't half bad, although they take getting used to
I could type pretty darn quick after getting used to the travel of the keys and the spacing between them. I didn't do a speed test, but I was probably within 20 wpm of my speed on an external Apple keyboard (which was 82 wpm in 2012).
The brightness keys are misleading
The two brightness keys control the backlight of the keyboard - not the actual screen of the Surface. I don't really see why switching between a few levels of key brightness is important; they should control the screen instead.
(There's a keyboard shortcut to change the screen brightness, but it's very obscure and involves hitting the delete key, which makes no sense)
It's missing a second magnet
The magnet that props the keyboard up is clever and works pretty well. A second, slightly weaker magnet to hold the cover in place when it's closed would've been appreciated though. It's not pleasant to have to worry about it.
The kickstand is a good idea
The Surface Pro 3's kickstand beats the iPad's Smart Cover, hands down. That wasn't true of the Surface 1 or 2, but with the 3 Microsoft finally nailed it by allowing it to swing 150 degrees.
Although the kickstand feels a bit wobbly at certain angles if you wiggle it back and forth, when it's resting on a table or your lap it feels far more stable than the magnetic Smart Cover does. For people who use their iPads almost exclusively in laptop-like modes with specialized cases, the Surface should feel pretty awesome. I know Microsoft's emphasis on the kickstand seems a bit silly, but it isn't.
The kickstand isn't just useful in productive poses either; lounging on the couch with it on your knees also feels great (again, better than an iPad). I spent over an hour whipping my RSS feeds into shape in total comfort.
Typing without the cover on your lap is fine ergonomically, but software holds me back
As someone who's totally used to the iPad's digital keyboard, I was never really interested in using the Surface with the keyboard attached on my lap (as advertised): I wanted to know if it was as good as my iPad on my lap. The answer is a frustrating 'almost'.
Although the Surface's kickstand allows it to get to the same position as an iPad with a Smart Cover, it begins to slide down to the lowest position when you type on it with an average amount of force. The lowest position is pretty good ergonomically anyway, but then you run into the second problem: the autocorrect and key spacing of the Windows keyboard (especially on a 12" screen) isn't as good as iOS. Maybe I'm missing something and I just need to give it more time, but that's my initial impression. I'm not sure I could reach my same 70+ wpm with it.
The display kicks butt, until you run into blurry windows
Many desktop apps and even a bunch of Windows' system dialogues look super blurry at the Surface's 2160x1440 resolution. Even very popular programs like Steam still haven't been optimized for high DPI screens on Windows, and that's unfortunate.
That said, everything else about the screen is great. Text is sharp, images look great, and colors look really nice even off-angle.
It's also big enough for two people to share when sitting side-by-side, which is pretty unique. As I read through articles on one side of the screen, my Dad could watch a YouTube video on the second half without a problem. Because of the smart way Microsoft has implemented multitouch, we could interact with our halves of the screen independently without messing up one another. It's pretty awesome, and although it's only 12" it feels bigger because it's closer to your hands and face than a laptop.
The kickstand combined with the great screen make the Surface Pro 3 really stand out. I don't think Apple's rumored iPad Pro will include a kickstand, but I think a 12"+ screen is a safe bet. It's the perfect size for multitasking.
It's powerful enough graphically for Starcraft and Portal
Again, I didn't have a lot of time to play with the Surface, but I did quickly install Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and the original Portal to see if they were playable. They were - especially at the lowest graphical settings, and Portal was fine even with almost everything at max.
The more annoying thing about using the Surface Pro 3 is that...
A second USB port would really come in handy.
If you're using a wired mouse or a Logitech dongle (which I still think is dumb) and you want to attach a USB key, then you're out of luck. You'll either have to suffer through using the trackpad or tap your way through Windows Explorer (which isn't totally horrible) to transfer your files.
Maybe the smaller footprint of USB Type-C will make it easier for Microsoft to add a second USB port in the next Surface. I know the recent MacBook Air rumors have everyone discussing whether or not one USB port is enough, but for Windows users at least I think the answer is a pretty solid "No."
Internet Explorer is still terrible
I was shocked to discover that Chrome is a better browser for touch than desktop IE. For example, tapping on the address bar in Chrome automatically brings up the keyboard so you can type an address and hit Enter, just as you'd expect. IE doesn't do that. It puts the cursor in the address bar, but then expects you to open up the keyboard manually by tapping its icon in the taskbar. Totally dumb.
The Windows Store seems to be stagnant
A lot of digital ink has been typed about the Windows Phone store having a dearth of high-quality, regularly-updated apps. The same seems to be true for Windows, but fewer people have said anything about it.
From what I can tell, the Top 100 apps in the store are pretty much what the Top 100 list looked like back when Windows 8 first came out. Fruit Ninja, Facebook, Netflix, etc. The boring stuff you'd expect, except nothing from Google. Most notably: no YouTube.
If Windows 10 becomes as popular as Windows 7 maybe that'll change, but as of right now only a few apps are really making the case for the Modern UI - like Nextgen Reader, which is probably the best desktop RSS reader available.
Windows is lean, mean, fast and compatible
Although I now spend most of my time using OS X because of the design-oriented apps I use, I still have a lot of respect for Windows. It runs like butter on machines with only 4GB of RAM, it handles program crashes better than OS X, and Windows 8.1 installed on a decade-old computer can magically bring it back to a usable state.
Despite the Surface Pro 3's spec compromises, it still feels good to use, and it'll probably feel just as good in 3, 4, or maybe even more years. The world of Macs and OS X isn't like that at all, from what I can tell.
Snapped multitasking is powerful, and a big differentiator
For the first few years after the iPad was released, we rationalized its lack of multi-window multitasking by asserting that, in a twisted kind of way, the iPad's insistence on doing one thing at a time was actually a good thing. It helped us focus solely on writing, reading, or consuming tweets, and helped stem information overload by slowing us down... or something.
That's mostly bull, and I think the iPad's slowed growth is at least partially due to the fact that our (larger) phones are increasingly better devices for single-app, consumption-oriented tasks. Writing, creating or otherwise "working" often requires jumping into and out of multiple apps either for reference or to do certain tasks, and iOS on a tablet isn't great at that. iOS 8's extensions are a good start, but they're not the solution to every problem; splitscreen multitasking is now a must-have for me in a tablet.
Yes, multi-window management via touch is a tricky thing to implement. Windows' swipe-from-the-top implementation works well enough, but it's admittedly obscured by its use of off-screen gestures. Apple's solution will likely be more understandable and easier to use, but one thing's for sure: I won't consider getting another iPad until it's implemented.
Despite the dumb Microsoftian mistakes like a horrendous-smelling keyboard and nonsensical brightness controls, I really like the Surface Pro 3. If I were to buy a Windows PC right now this would be it, despite its seemingly-awkward form factor and uncertain future.
A lighter Surface Pro 4 with a Core M processor and fanless design would be great, of course, but the fundamentals of what I think laptops/next-gen tablets will eventually be like are already here in the Pro 3.
A beautiful touchscreen, a detachable keyboard, and the power & capability of a full-fledged PC in a single device. I'm a fan.