'The UX of Mobile Settings' →
Luis Mena compared the settings screens of iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Scroll down to see the overall comparison graphic. Clearly, Windows Phone needs some work.
Luis Mena compared the settings screens of iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Scroll down to see the overall comparison graphic. Clearly, Windows Phone needs some work.
The Chrome team started rolling this out last month. It adds a button with your first name to the top-right corner for easy profile-switching.
Since I'm the only user of my computer this extra button is totally useless to me. Here's how to disable it.
chrome://flags/#enable-new-avatar-menu into Chrome's URL bar and hit Enter
2) At the top, set "Enable the new avatar menu" to "Disabled"
3) Click "Relaunch Now" at the bottom of the window
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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)
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 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.
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.
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.
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...
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rumored iPad Pro makes a lot of sense to me.
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.
The Verge's video team had a great year. The Magic Capital of the World, eBoy and the perfection of pixels, Instagram Hyperlapse stabilization and even their 1990's-style 90 Seconds on The Verge episode and keyboard music video were really well-edited, fun to watch, and informative to boot.
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.
If it weren't for John Legere, I wouldn't care nearly as much as I do about T-Mobile.
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.
CBS took a surprisingly objective look at eSports this morning. Some of their numbers seem a bit fishy to me (it seems like 23.5M people watched this year's World Series, not 14M) but overall it's a good introduction.
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.
The reason why the US Citizenship & Immigration office gives certain players athletic visas is because the word 'athlete' is the closest descriptor of who these players are. Barring the physical requirement of traditional athletics, physical and digital athletes are otherwise indistinguishable (aside from the amount they're currently paid).
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?
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:
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.
In the example below, I'll be changing the old @Thinkertry handle for this site to the new @thinkerbit.
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.
Here's what your account page will look like:
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:
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.
This usage data from Pocket is pretty clear-cut: owners of the newest iPhones are spending significantly less time reading and watching video within their iPad app.
The iPhone/iPad ratio will eventually even out a little as the iPhone 6 loses some of its shiny new-ness, but I doubt it'll fall to the previous level of 55% iPhone / 45% iPad.
An interesting analysis of Jackie Chan's filmmaking style by Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting. The American style of action is very apparent to me now.
Another interesting bit:
Jackie is a perfectionist, willing to do as many takes as necessary to get it right, and in Hong Kong he's supported by the studio, which gives him months to shoot a fight.
.... When I re-watch his work, these little things are the ones I'm most impressed by. He doesn't need to do them and they eat into his budget, but he still does them because he wants to, and it's that 'going above and beyond' that I respect and admire.
Jackie: "But in America they don't allow you to do that, because of money."
Tony's "Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy" is also worth your time if you're interested in filmmaking technique.
I mostly ignored Super Evil Megacorp's on-stage demo at WWDC (which focused on iOS 8's Metal), but after repeatedly playing Vainglory the past two weeks I think they've created a winner.
I used this script a few weeks ago to manually update my Nexus 7 to Android 5.0 Lollipop without having to install the entire Android SDK. I'm very grateful to Corbin Davenport for making it so easy.
Open up Terminal, paste the install code, do what you need to do, and then paste the uninstall code to remove the tools from your machine. Simple, straightforward and clean.
Looks pretty cool to me, and public reception has been generally positive. A good start for one of the most highly-anticipated films of this decade.
As someone who grew up with the less-than-ideal sequels, my stance on Disney rebooting the franchise is similar to Reel Matt's:
I never thought the day would come when I could experience what my parents and so many others did in 1977 when the original film was released. That day is coming, and it’s December 18, 2015.
That's really the whole point: after 37 years, it's about time that the next generation - my generation - gets to experience the awesomeness of Star Wars that the prequels failed to capture. Given Abrams' work on Star Trek, it seems like this reboot will finally bring back that magic.
This video of Grand Theft Auto V's LA-inspired Los Santos makes me feel like I'm peering into the Matrix. This is what ~$266 million worth of development looks like (and the PC version isn't even out yet).
Count me among the people who were annoyed with Apple's promotional notification yesterday. It's a good cause and all, but lighting up the App Store with PROJECT(RED) coloring and working with popular app developers to tweak their icons was enough to get the word out; a un-opt-outable notification was simply unnecessary, and kinda rude.
I'm sure the majority of iOS users didn't mind it at all and were happy to donate, but as Marco Arment points out Apple willingly violated their own rule to make the notification happen, and that sets a terrible example for app developers.
A thoughtful and well-edited series on the history of graphics in video games by Stuart Brown. The concluding thought in the last video is a good summary:
Graphics are absolutely important. They are an essential part of videogames, a window into another world, and a prime indicator of the technology that powers it.
However, the true value of visuals is not in their realism. A game's aesthetic does far more to establish its character than its polygon count. A cohesive style is all you need, and it's often better to stick to proven technique than it is to attempt something cutting edge.
We still need pioneers to light the way, but for most, there's no harm in sticking to safer waters. A development span of half a century means that graphics can lean on an ever-richer heritage.
We have come a long way.
46 minutes total, but worth it if you've been a gamer for a while. Definitely a nostalgia trip.
Stewart Butterfield, Slack's CEO, in a short interview with Rachel Metz of MIT Technology Review:
Are you bringing other changes to Slack?
Oh, God, yeah. I try to instill this into the rest of the team but certainly I feel that what we have right now is just a giant piece of shit. Like, it’s just terrible and we should be humiliated that we offer this to the public. Not everyone finds that motivational, though.
The many internal tales of Steve Jobs aside, you don't often hear CEOs bash their own product with such gusto - particularly when Venture Capital money is starting to flow. It's refreshing to see Butterfield acknowledge his young product's flaws rather than prematurely tout its greatness.
I'm also sure that he's right about his perspective not being motivational or helpful to team members who don't think the same way. I have a similar tendency to be unimpressed with the work of most of the students I partner up with, and because I'm not so great at acting dumb, my feedback often puts a damper on their enthusiasm (even though our project ends up being better for it).
Butterworth's comment reminds of a story Jony Ive recently told:
I remember having a conversation with [Steve] [about] why it could have been perceived that in his critique of a piece of work, he was a little harsh. We’d been working on this, we’d put our heart and soul into this, and I was saying, ‘Couldn’t we ... moderate the things we said, a little bit?’
And he said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because I care about the team.’ And he said this brutally, brilliantly insightful thing, which was, ’No Jony, you’re just really vain.’ He said, ‘You just want people to like you, and I’m surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed that you were perceived by other people.’
And I was terribly cross, because I knew he was right.
It seems like the key thing to convey when discussing a product's flaws with team members is to remind them that it's the work that you're unimpressed with, and not them as a person. Unfortunately it's human nature to take any kind of criticism personally, and sugarcoating stuff or ignoring things entirely to avoid hurt feelings only ends up hurting everyone in the end.
It's tricky, and after almost a decade of practice I've only gotten marginally better at it.