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.
A conveniently-timed business trip brought my Dad to Germany a few months ago, and he took full advantage of it by traveling across Western Europe. Part of my family originates from a tiny island in the North Sea called Insel Föhr, and the pictures he took make it look like something out of a Disney movie.
Someday I'd like to visit Europe and explore my heritage as well, but for now I have my Dad's awesome photo album and my grandparents' stories.
I hope that the low viewership numbers on YouTube represent only a small fraction of the reach these videos get through The Verge's own video player. The video team deserves a lot more success & recognition.
Seems very well-considered. This is one (admittedly geeky) thing Yosemite didn't clean up much, and I've definitely been the victim of having 10+ 'Get Info' windows appear when I should've Command+Alt+I'd instead.
This conversation nicely captures the irony of not understanding why people watch eSports:
"I can understand people watching a golf game, I can't understand people watching somebody play a computer game.""
"Well I have to say, my wife can't understand people watching a golf game because she's not a golfer. So if you're not a gamer, that's not gonna appeal to you."
Something to keep in mind around the 5-minute mark when they discuss whether or not eSports competitors are 'athletes': by definition they aren't, because athletes are people "trained to compete in sports or exercises involving physical strength, speed, or endurance". eSports competitors definitely get physically tense when $100,000+ are on the line, and they possess impressive hand-eye coordination and mental skill, but they're not technically athletes.
My very basic web knowledge came in handy recently. I was working on a group project, and my team wanted to include a few realistic-looking news headlines in our presentation.
Is anyone good with Photoshop?
We don't need Photoshop, we can just edit the website.
Like... hack it?
Right-click a piece of text
Select "Inspect Element"
In the colorful code that appears, double-click the string of text you want to change to edit it
Hit enter to confirm, and close the inspector with the "x" on the top right
This simple tip blew their minds, and I was known thenceforth the "computer wizard" of the group.
If I were to trace back all of my web-related work to a single point in time, I think it was the day I saw raw HTML code in Chrome's web inspector back in ~2010. Before then, I only kinda-sorta knew that the web was made of files and code - I didn't realize I could manipulate that code and tweak things right on my own machine. It was an awesome discovery, and very few people my age know it's even possible without "hacking".
I now impart this powerful knowledge unto you in good faith, knowing that you'll put it to good use. Spread the word about web wizardry, and explore all the secrets the inspector holds. If you can see it, you can change it - don't let any website tell you otherwise.
Here's how to change your Twitter handle from @OldName to @NewName without losing your followers, tweet history, or losing access to your old handle. From your followers' perspective, the change will be totally seamless, and it can be done in less than 10 minutes.
Here's a synopsis:
create a new Twitter account with a @JunkName handle you don't care about
change your @OldName account to @NewName, keeping your followers and tweet history intact (releasing your @OldName into the wild)
use the new Twitter account you made to quickly grab @OldName before anyone else has a chance to take it
One thing to note: Because of the way Twitter handles conversations, changing your username won't retroactively change @mentions directed toward you from other people. This means that people you've conversed with will seemingly be talking to a ghost at @OldName instead of you at @NewName. Considering the "in-the-now" nature of Twitter this isn't really a showstopper, just a mild inconvenience that'll lessen over time.
First, create a brand new Twitter account with a junk handle you don't care about. Something like "testing873626" is fine. Make the password strong, because eventually this will be the account that holds your @OldName for safe-keeping.
Now sign out of that account (or open up another web browser) and sign into your @OldName Twitter account. Head to your account page, which will look like this:
Replace the username in that first box with the one you want, and you'll see an "Available!" confirmation message.
Click the big blue "Save changes" button at the bottom and you'll be asked to re-enter your password to confirm the change.
Confirm your password, hit "Save changes" and a yellow banner will let you know that your settings have been saved. Your username is now officially changed.
If you need to change your "real" name (First & Last), which in my case still says Thinkertry, head over to your main profile page and click the "Edit profile" button. Change your name from there and hit "Save changes". The Twitter account you care about is now perfectly set up.
To maintain control of your @OldName, log back into the new Twitter account you made with the temporary handle and go to the account page. Change the username to your @OldName and it'll show as available. Old usernames are made available to the world the very instant someone changes their name, and as far as I can tell there's no time limit or name change limit either.
Click "Save changes" just as before, and head over to your profile again to tweak the account's name and description. It may also be a good idea to make one tweet from this account directing people to the @NewName account. None of your followers will see this (because they're following @NewName now), but anyone who visits your old account URL will be more likely to notice the change and follow you in the right place.
And that's it! Not as hard as I thought it would be, and my many single digits of followers are none the wiser.
With exams right around the corner, today seemed like the perfect time to organize my wallpaper collection and create a new page to share them.
Each wallpaper is, in my opinion:
Large enough to not be blurry (at least, not on my 1920x1200 monitor)
Interesting enough to be worth looking at (too many "minimalist" wallpapers are just boring shapes the center of boring rectangles)
Dark enough for desktop icon labels to be read easily, and to save my eyes from blinding whiteness at night
All of the ones included fit the bill, and I've been cycling through them for the past few years. I have ~100 others that I'll need to test a bit more before sharing, and I'll do that throughout 2015.
Every artist I could find is credited, and clicking a wallpaper will bring you to the artist's preferred download page (which is a pain, I know, but they get analytics data that way). If I couldn't find the original source/artist, you'll be directed to a locally-hosted copy instead.
Every wallpaper is at least 1920x1080, and two-thirds of them are at least 2560x1440. I may display the resolutions of locally-hosted ones in the future, but not for now.
As much as I'd like to create a nicely-organized .zip file with all of them included, I'm once again reluctant to willingly redistribute the work of others. I could make one with just the 'unknown' wallpapers included, but that seems a bit pointless.
And of course, I don't claim copyright on any of these images, and you should contact artists directly if you'd like to use them for commercial work.
If you know of (or are) the original source for any of these images, let me know and I'll update or remove their listings.