Archive for November 2012

 
 

iTunes 11 Header Bar

iTunes 11 Header Bar

This is the new header bar atop the iTunes 11 interface. Right now, it bugs me. I may get used to it, but here’s what’s annoying me about it right now:

  • The updating window in the middle has a gray gradient shadow thing that doesn’t feel natural. I guess they’re trying to give you the impression that that part of the window is concave, while the rest of the header bar is convex. The convex part works thanks to a very tiny gradient that you only notice if you look closely. (It’s brighter on the top half than the bottom.) But the concave part feels unnaturally shadowed somehow. It’s too dark under the top lip there.

  • That active convex portion of the window feels too crammed in. It needs a little more white space surrounding it, I think, particularly on the top and bottom.

  • It also feels like the rewind button is hanging out just a tad too far to the left. It shouldn’t be right under the green dot in the corner. It’s not, but it looks like it is. That makes the proportions seem just a bit off.

  • On the right side, the search box is too far to the right. Resize the window and pay attention to how the search bar moves. It stays pinned to the far right side, while the music controls on the opposite side stays pinned to the far left. The problem is, the search bar is narrower, so you wind up with a lot more lost negative space on the right side, and that unbalances the whole header.

I’m still exploring the new iTunes and trying to get used to some things. I am bothered at the way iTunes now thinks I have two subscriptions to the same podcast in the same way the iPhone App does. (I’m guessing one is subscribed from the computer, while the other was added on the iPhone. This is all related to iCloud, which I don’t use yet.) But I do like the way it segments music from podcasts from Audiobooks, etc, while pushing your connected devices over to a separate dropdown menu. That makes a lot more sense.

I also like the use of Helvetica. The overall look of iTunes 11 reminds me a bit of the Gnome desktop environment for Linux, oddly enough. The sidebar-less window looks a lot like an iPad app to me, too.

So, yeah, my thoughts are scattered right now. With time, I hope to pull them together better. . ..

Quote of the Day – 28 November Edition

The creation of Lost defies nearly everything we know about how successful television shows — or great ones — are made. The idea for Lost came not from a writer, but a network executive. The first writer on the project got fired. The replacement creative team had a fraction of the usual time to write, cast, and produce a pilot episode. The executive who had championed the show was himself fired before it ever aired. One of the two creators all but quit the moment the pilot was finished. Nearly every creative decision at the start of the show was made under the assumption that it would never succeed. Everyone believed it was too weird, too dense, too unusual to work. And it may have been. But it worked, anyway.

GPS in the Windshield

I like how people are worried that drivers looking down at their iPhone’s GPS is a major hazard, but have no problem with the people who stick their GPS on their windshield at eye level right in front of their faces, even when they’re not using them. I could never drive at night with a glowing three inch screen a foot in front of my face in the middle of my field of view. How do people do that?

Better yet, why do they do that? Did they forget how to get home from work? It’s a classic case of people growing reliant on technology for no good reason and blinding themselves to the obvious.

Let me Google that for you. Not surprisingly, it turns out to be illegal in one or two states. Should be illegal in all states.

Wii U: Next Gen Console Wars Start Now!

Obviously, it’s far too early to predict anything from initial numbers like these, but Nintendo has to be happy that it’s selling out of the new Wii U:

According to (Nintendo of America President Reggie) Fils-Aime, Nintendo sold over 700,000 consoles during the last week. The Wii U topped the Wii with 400,000 units sold. The Wii, which Nintendo launched all the way back in 2006, was able to muster 300,000 Wii sales during the last week.

It’s great that Nintendo sold 400,000 units in less than a week. But the fact that the last-gen Wii sold 300,000 units is remarkable. Were there big Black Friday sales on the Wii that boosted its sale? Fils-Aime credits those sales with the strong sales of the DS over the 3DS:

Nintendo sold more than 500,000 hardware units, including 250,000 3DS and 275,000 DS devices. Fils-Aime explained to CNET that the DS outsold the 3DS because of the “significant” deals retailers were offering on Black Friday.

There’s still some life left in Mario, and that’s a good thing.

Not everyone is so sure, of course. Nolan Bushnell expressed his doubts to the New York Times today:

“I actually am baffled by it,” Nolan K. Bushnell, the founder of Atari and the godfather of the games business, says of the Wii U. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big success.”

As the cliche goes in news reporting, only time will tell. . .

And here’s a little nugget from the NYT article for all the Nintendo Haters:

Nintendo has shipped close to 100 million Wiis, while Sony and Microsoft have each shipped about 70 million of their latest consoles.

Mario still beats First Person Shooters.

Quote of the Day – 27 November Edition

…all original content is by big companies that have partnered with Twitter to use Twitter as an announcement platform, all users just talk about what these things mean, and trends are what you look at — now that of course means that everything in trends is not really a trend, just chatter about what will effectively be ads. Yay, Twitter!

This is essentially the systematic destruction of a once valuable and far reaching tool.

-Ben Brooks

Buy a Canon 6D

Here’s how the internet works:

This is a Canon 6D camera, due out in December. It’s the new “entry-level” “full-frame” camera from Canon:

If you click on that picture, you can go to Amazon and buy it. I added in my Amazon Affiliates code, so I’ll get a tiny portion of the amount you pay. By my rough estimates, I only need 25 of you to buy this camera through the above link to be able to afford one of my own. And given the vast readership of this blog, that means every other reader needs to click through and buy it now. For all I care, you can turn around and sell it on eBay. Just don’t return it to Amazon, or they’ll take their money back from me.

Once I have the camera that half my readership already uses and enjoys, I’ll write a review of it. In that review, I’ll include the above picture again and the same Amazon Affiliate link. My no-doubt glowing praise for the technological wonderment of a full frame camera with built-in Wi-Fi and GPS will cause sales again to increase amongst the half of my audience that didn’t smartly buy it the first time.

With that Affiliate change, I can buy the battery grip to go with the camera, because my hands are too large to comfortably fit on a camera of such size. I’ll review that, too. With a picture. And an Affiliate link. My fellow large-handed camera owners will run out and copy me because I’m an influential thought leader. With that spare change, I’ll be able to buy a couple of comics to read while the pictures are downloading to my computer.

I’ll review those on Pipeline, where I won’t have Affiliate links, and so the circle will end.

Until that new Apple computer comes out next year and I post a pic and link to that

State of the DVD, c. 2002

When “Shrek” debuted on DVD in 2001, it came as a two-disc set. Here’s the first disc:

The original Shrek DVD

These days, when you see a two disc set, you assume the second disc is the special edition material. It’s all the behind the scenes stuff you likely won’t ever watch, but loved seeing as bullet points on the back of the DVD packaging. Or, even more recently, one disc is the Blu-ray edition and the other is the DVD.

But back at the turn of the millennium, two discs were for something else. One was the original aspect ratio (O.A.R.) edition for the movie, while the other was the nauseating pan and scan edition. Widescreen television sets were not yet the norm, and lots of people still thought an O.A.R. edition of a movie meant that information was being chopped off the top and bottom of the picture where the black bars were. The earliest days of the DVD format were as much an effort about getting new technology in people’s hands as it was an effort to explain to people that pan and scan sucks and so-called “widescreen” was the one true way to go.

Thankfully, we’re over that now. O.A.R. won. But when my daughter decides she wants to watch “Shrek” again, I need to remember better that I want her to watch Disc 2. Otherwise, I’ll go dizzy from the pan and scan.

Footnote 1: “Original Aspect Ratio” is not to be confused with “Of A Revolution”

On-Line Backups

CrashPlan.com is having a big weekend sale. If you’re looking for an on-line back-up for your computer, this is as good a price as you’ll ever get. I bought it last night for $6. That gets me one year of unlimited storage. Normally, I believe that’s the $5 a month plan. The price goes up every two hours. As I type this, it’s now $12, but that’s still a steal. At prices that low, it can’t hurt to give it a try.

My computer has a one terabyte hard drive in it. Here’s my current status:

That’s the status just a few hours after I started.

And, no, I don’t get a cut on your purchases. I just want to spread the word. My back-up plan right now is monumentally bad, so I look at this as a good first step.

How to Save Space on your Mac

While cleaning some files up last week, I found this batch of files:

iPod Update files are old and easy to delete

Two things to note here:

  • Since I bought an iPhone in 2009, I’ve not used an iPod. My father-in-law inherited that iPod, which died a couple of years later. I also replaced my PowerMac with an iMac a couple of years ago, so I obviously did a blind transfer of all files from one computer to the next.

  • Those files are pretty big. That’s over a half Gig of files for 11 updates over the course of two years.

Remember when the world was excited over a pocked computer that could only really play audio files? Sure, they added video playback and a few simple games, but everyone changed their lifestyles to include more music in their lives just because of the iPad. No apps. No video for a long time. No books. No websurfing. No Angry Birds.

The damned thing had a hard drive for most of its lifespan, too.

Life seemed to quaint then, doesn’t it now?

Oh, hey, one last thing: See the little circle/slash icons to left of all the files? Those updates were all from the PowerPC chip days of my PowerMac. They wouldn’t run today on my current Operating System. That makes them triply easy to delete.

Quote of the Day – 20 Nov Edition

“I once saw a bumper sticker that read, ‘Organized people are just too lazy to search for things.'”

-Dave Caolo

Looking Back on Hypercritical

Hypercritical

A weekly talk show ruminating on exactly what is wrong in the world of Apple and related technologies and businesses. Nothing is so perfect that it can’t be complained about.

Sadly, John Siracusa’s “Hypercritical” podcast will be wrapping up in December. It was an amazing show. Astonishing and informative. It’s well laid out and fun to listen to. Thankfully, much of it is timeless. While many shows did get wrapped up in the news of the moment, the best of the podcast dealt with evergreen issues, complete with technical histories and constructive criticism, all with an eye towards the reality of the situations.

When all is said and done, “Hypercritical” will have lasted 100 or so episodes. It’s worth listening to all of it, but I’ll give you a short cut. Here are the highlights of the podcast, in my mind. These are the best of the show and the most representative:

  • The History of Video Game Joysticks: In which Siracusa plows through a history of home gaming console controllers, analyzing their layout, their buttons, their functionality, their joysticks, and more. It was such a gigantic topic that it spread out across multiple shows.

  • Why PHP Sucks: As a computer programmer who’s toyed with PHP before, I had an interest in this one. But Siracusa — a professional Perl programmer (like myself!) — points out all of PHP’s shortcomings, including the absurd number of functions the language has. Alternate title for this series: Perl Rules, PHP Droolz. It’s fun to listen to co-host Dan Benjamin’s disbelief when Siracusa points out the advantages of Perl as a language.

  • Why Wikipedia Sucks: It’s not about truth. It’s about quoting someone else. This should be Must Reading for any internet user.

  • A Brief History of Processor Chips: This is last week’s episode. It’s ridiculously low level and geeky, but Siracusa lays out the case for why Apple won’t be quickly shifting from Intel chips to ARM chips, with a great history of how we got to the place we are today. Intel, RISC, registers, memory, etc.

  • Walter Isaacson got it all wrong: Not surprisingly, Siracusa didn’t like the Steve Jobs bio last year, and lists all the reasons why across two episodes:

  • File Systems For the Really Really Technically Curious, and Nobody Else: This is Siracusa at his most technical. It opened my eyes to the world of file systems, but I have to admit that there were times in these shows that my eyes glazed over just a tad.

I’m sure I’ll think of ten more tomorrow and kick myself for not including them here. The earliest shows talking about the problems with TV sets and TiVo are particularly good, for example. But I need to stop somewhere. So there’s my cheat sheet guide.

Thanks for all the great (and did I mention long shows), @siracusa. Hopefully, there will be some occasions somewhere for special outings. Hypercritical will be missed.

P.S. This post was written in Markdown. John Siracusa doesn’t use Markdown. He explains why in Episode #33, “Square Bracket Colon Smiley”

Quote of the Day

“Patting oneself on the back is rarely easy unless you’re a gymnast from one of those weirdo former Soviet nations.” -Andy Ihnatko

Nintendo’s Next Next Gen: The Wii U

Nintendo launched its next generation system, the Wii U, yesterday. The Verge has its review here. (Though I’d disagree with their use of the word gimmick to describe the differentiator. The Wii’s control was a “gimmick” until everyone else tried to copy it, I guess. We wouldn’t have Kinect today if it weren’t for the Wiimote. Do people call the Kinect a gimmick, too?)

That just made me wistful and nostalgic for the glory days of the release of the Nintendo Wii, 6 years ago now. It was impossible to find on launch day with that release, but I exploited an archaic local law to easily pick mine up on a cold November Monday morning. Heck, I bought two and sold the second to a friend. Spread the love, I say.

My Wii is still connected to my TV to this day. I’m anxious for the time my daughter is old enough to be able to play Wii Sports with me. We’re not too far off.

No, I’m not buying the Wii U. It’s not that I don’t find it a fascinating device — though I do wonder if Nintendo isn’t trying to be All Things to All People and doomed to fail — but that I don’t have the time to play many games these days. I won’t be buying a next gen XBox or PlayStation, either. All my gaming gets done on my iPhone these days, and I don’t think I’m alone on that.

Here are my first thoughts on the Wii, too. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a lot of fun.

I first started tracking the Nintendo “Revolution” in May of 2005. Time certainly does fly.

Bowling Bankruptcy

Let’s do some business news today from The Wall Street Journal:

AMF Bowling Worldwide Inc., the world’s largest operator of bowling alleys, filed for bankruptcy-court protection Tuesday after being squeezed by a cash crunch and failing to find a buyer for its business.

[..] Tom Clark, the commissioner of the Professional Bowlers Association, said that even as the number of people bowling at least once a year is at a high of about 70 million, only about two million are competing regularly in leagues.

This is nothing new. A whole book was written about this about a decade ago and what it says about our culture. The bowling world hasn’t been able to shift culturally fast enough to keep up with it. The cost is too high, leagues are too much commitment, and organizing a regular event like league bowling in a world where all of our kids are so ridiculously scheduled to the hilt is almost impossible.

I know some houses have started shorter seasons, and I think that’s a good idea. I think short leagues — 10 weeks, max — would be an interesting way to go.

Cut back on the prizes at the end of the league, too. Keep costs low. In the last league I bowled in, we paid way too much every week and then got a big check at the end of the year for our prize, even when the team was in the basement. The members of the league voted to keep the pay out fairly even-handed. First place still took a lot more, but it spread out fairly evenly after that. The league, as competitive as it could be, was still a very social one, with lots of people who had bowled together for a very long time. Then the house closed and everyone went their different ways. Sad. I miss those guys.

In any case, here’s the interesting stat from the article:

AMF, which sold off its bowling alleys overseas in a previous restructuring, operates 262 bowling centers in the U.S. Small chains and mom-and-pop operators now dominate the industry, which includes more than 5,000 bowling alleys.

In a world in which mom and pop pharmacies were choked off by CVS, Walgreens, etc., everyone is threatened by Walmart, and independent book stores are all but dead in the wake of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the bowling world is backwards. The 300 pound gorilla in the industry holds little sway. Go figure.

That said, apart from the one Lucky Strikes chain mentioned in the article, I can’t think of a single bowling center that’s opened in the last two decades. All I’ve seen are the ones that have closed, one by one by one. Butler, Wyckoff, and Ramsey are the first three that come to mind. Rumor has it even that the lanes down the road from me where I live now are in trouble. (The Pro shop has been empty for years.)

As someone who loves bowling, it’s sad to watch. Of course, I’m also part of the problem. I haven’t bowled in a league for five years now. But I enjoy throwing stones, anyway. . .

Improving iOS

This is a good breakdown of some of the areas that iOS can still improve in. The two big ones for me are making it easier to access the power-draining features like screen brightness, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, and iCloud simplification. I still haven’t turned iCloud on. Once I upgrade to Mountain Lion, I just might. For now, though, I’m less than sure of it.

Having communications between apps would be awesome, as would being able to define your default mail client and web browser. The latter isn’t on the list, but I’d like it to be. Hide it as deeply in the settings as you want, Apple, I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t be changing those back and forth all the time. But apps do have their own URL schemes, so the first step is already taken care of. Standardize those for mail and web apps, and let us make our choice. (I wouldn’t switch away from Safari, but I do enjoy Sparrow for email at the moment. I’d also like to replace “Read Later” with “Instapaper” across the board, if I could.

Also, and most importantly for me, personally, I’d like to see Podcasts app work. The other night, while it was sitting quiet in my coat pocket, I missed a phone call. After getting a notification that I had a new voice mail, the Podcasts app kicked on and started playing the podcast I was last listening to hours ago. I guess the app was sitting in memory still. But it’s odd that it turns itself on after any phone call ends, whether it was actually playing or not before hand. Frustrating. I can’t trust it to not play when I’m at my desk at work or in an elevator or something. Just bizarre.

And, yes, I will continue to harp on this until Apple finally fixes the Podcasts app someday. I’m not terribly inclined to believe it’s a high priority of theirs, though. What I need to do is dust off the podcast playing app I had created for myself and start using that again. I just dread the though of re-acquainting myself with the code. I was learning as I went along. It wasn’t always pretty… But it didn’t start playing for no good reason, at least!