project ara delayed because its phones keep falling apart

Project Ara, the modular mobile phone from Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) group, has hit some delays, and now we’re getting a hint as to what went wrong.

Supposedly the phones were coming apart when dropped, big surprise, but something that could be solved easily with a case.

This headline reads like rhetoric coming from the project to save face though. It’s likely that a more accurate statement would be, “Google cancels modular phone project, because it’s not a good idea.”

icloud.com now lets you recover deleted files

Seems to work similar to the “Recently Deleted” folder in Photos on iPhone, which has been great. Anything that helps us avoid data loss is a win in my book.

crew members sample leafy greens grown on space station

Fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space officially is on the menu for the first time for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA’s one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, are ready to sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce Monday, Aug. 10, from the Veggie plant growth system on the nation’s orbiting laboratory.

apple dot com updated

Apple.com got an update yesterday. The separate store site is no more, may the “we’ll be back soon” sticky note rest in peace. Removing the store must have been a very big undertaking, but to the unaware, the changes are subtle.

It’s been said before, but I think apple.com is one of the best examples on the Internet of design iteration. The overall layout of the site has gotten to where it is today very slowly in moderate steps. You can check it out on archive.org and see that the DNA of the current design has been around for more than a decade.

goodbye, android

As you might have heard, a security researcher revealed on Monday that a series of bugs deep inside Android’s source code allow hackers to hack and spy on users with a simple multimedia message.

If you’re worried your Android device might be vulnerable to these bugs, collectively known as Stagefright, well, I’ve got bad news for you. It probably is. In fact, as many as 950 million phones likely are.

This sounds awesome. Nothing is truly bulletproof, but the vast ecosystem of Android phones can’t seem to get their hands on any kevlar.

youtube and full-screen playback of vertical videos

YouTube has added support for full-screen playback of vertical videos in their latest iOS app update.

Listen to Viticci. If 90% of people are going to view this video on a mobile device, and the intent of the video is not to display some grand artful vision, I’m better off if you don’t make me:

  1. Switch off orientation lock
  2. Rotate my phone
  3. Rotate my phone again, because it didn’t work the first time
  4. Start the video back from the beginning, because I missed it already
  5. Switch orientation lock back on, because most apps have terrible landscape experiences

</rant>

apple ceases selling nest products

The writing was on the wall as soon as a HomeKit compatible thermostat surfaced.

recurrent neural network handwriting generation demo

Type a message into the text box, and the network will try to write it out longhand…either let the network choose a writing style at random or prime it with a real sequence to make it mimic that writer’s style.

Whoa.

apple, networks progressing in talks over cable-killer tv app

“The platform is ready and it rocks,” said one source.

The rumors around this continue to coalesce. It didn’t happen at WWDC, so that makes it a pretty sure bet for the fall, right?

As someone who has already “cut the (cable) cord,” I’m pretty excited about the potential here.

Update: And now this: NFL ‘Game Pass’ With On-Demand Game Broadcasts Coming to Apple TV

is the new ipod touch a harbinger of a 4-inch iphone 6c

I’ve long been envious of the form factor of the iPod touch when compared to its iPhone contemporaries, and I still feel like the larger iPhone 6 screen doesn’t serve me as well as the 4-inch from all varieties of iPhone 5.

But I’m also unlikely to buy a 6C at this size if it is missing new or crucial features that exist in the newer phone. I’m finally “used to” the size of the 6, and I don’t want to feel a generation or more behind just to get the form factor I find more comfortable.

use the corners

On a recent episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber remarked that using the digital crown to zoom into apps seemed gimmicky, or something like that (I’m not going to find a direct quote). And in more than one episode he has, along with his guests, expressed issues with tapping on the tiny icons on the watch face. It just so happens that the hexagonal nature of the app layout provides a great way to make better use of the zoom-to-launch feature.

Just like throwing your mouse cursor into a corner of your screen has been a shortcut to accessing features like your screensaver for decades on the Mac, intentionally placing apps at a corner of your app layout makes it very easy to position them to the center location. A quick spin of the digital crown and you’re launched.


Adopting this mentality for my app layout has made launching my frequently used apps much faster.

the end

This is the final post on Minimal Mac. This project contains what I believe in when it comes to a mindful and intentional approach to technology.

Minimal Mac helped inspire my interest in how technology can be both beautiful and human. It will be missed. Here’s to what’s next for Patrick!

apple watch anticipation

John Gruber published his review of the Apple Watch earlier this week. He had many observations in common with other reviewers. But here are a couple quotes that piqued my interest.

The Sport Band is a downright revelation — I’d go so far as to call it the most comfortable watch band I’ve ever worn. I’ve rolled my eyes at Apple’s use of fluoroelastomer in lieu of rubber to describe the material of these bands, but it truly does have a premium, richly supple feel to it.

My preferred watch band choice was initially the link bracelet, the most expensive option. However, after trying my Nixon Quatro on again, I remembered having often removed it while typing on my laptop to prevent metal on metal scratches. This quote makes me look forward to the sports band where I previously expected to be at least somewhat dissatisfied with it.

Scroll to the end of a list and Apple Watch has a rubber band “bounce” animation, much like iOS. But on Apple Watch, the rubber band animation coincides with haptic feedback that somehow conveys the uncanny sensation that the digital crown suddenly has more tension. It feels like you’re stretching a rubber band.

This is one of the details I’m excited to feel for myself. I haven’t yet tried the new Force Touch trackpad, but given the responses I’ve heard from others, it seems there’s reason to believe Apple has been able to pull off some extremely subtle experiences with haptic feedback that are now the state of the art.

The general take away of the reviews I’ve read is that the Apple Watch is definitely a first-generation product. That’s an amazingly mundane conclusion, given that it’s factual.

The iPhone was once a first-generation product too, with which we had our gripes. It didn’t have copy and paste for crying out loud. The screen was too small. No removable battery. No keyboard. No expandable storage. But we ended up doing way more with that 3.5″ screen than we ever could have imagined in January 2007.

We can tally up a list of faults against the Apple Watch as well. But what I find the most interesting is the promise in the new form factor. How much has technology changed our lives since we shifted from a computer on our desk to a computer in our backpack, to walking around with a computer in our pocket. It’s naive to think we’ve even begun to realize what impact could come from walking around with a computer on our wrist.

extra ports on ipad pro

Mac Rumors just posted photos of a new mockup of an iPad Pro:

…a recent rumor from The Wall Street Journal pointed towards the the possible inclusion of USB 3.0 ports on the iPad Pro, potentially allowing the device to connect to a keyboard or mouse.

This is an absurd statement. If Apple includes USB on a future iPad Pro, it won’t be for “allowing the device to connect to a keyboard or mouse.” iOS devices can already all connect to keyboards and mice via Bluetooth, and the idea that any iPad would have a connector for that purpose is coming from someone who clearly doesn’t know much about Apple.

hell froze over, pigs flying, etc.

Nintendo is teaming with a leading mobile development company in Japan to release titles from their franchises for smartphones.

The maker of Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, which has long resisted any suggestions that it put its games on smartphones and tablets, said today that it would team with DeNA, one of Japan’s leading mobile game companies, to create games using its popular franchises for mobile devices.

This is an action many of us thought they would never take. Their looming problem (which I’ve written about before) as a game console manufacturer has been this:

What’s happening here is that Nintendo is falling victim to digital convergence. Go ask the big players in point and shoot cameras, GPS navigation, netbooks, and feature phones what happened to their markets. If they don’t all give you the same answer they’re lying, or potentially oblivious.

Of all the potential paths that Nintendo could take in this scenario, releasing software on other platforms seemed to be the most unlikely. Developing new hardware platforms has always been part of their DNA. They are on the short list of companies that exemplify the old Alan Kay quote: “people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

This is encouraging news for fans of Nintendo. There is immense value in their gaming franchises, and I’m looking forward to the first game announcements.

My big wish in light of this news is that we one day see official Nintendo controllers for iOS. They were first behind most of the standards in game controllers we have today, and they could make amazing controllers to the spec laid out in iOS 7.

search high and low

This might be a little exaggerated, but I definitely have felt the same way at times:

Since Siri came out, there has been a weird tension surrounding when I’m comfortable having a conversation with my phone. There have been many times where I wished I could just type out my request.

Spotlight exists for typing in search requests, but it’s far more limited that what Siri can accomplish. These two systems seem to have some level of overlap, and some minor tweaks to Siri could obviate the need for Spotlight as a separate feature. Siri could also benefit from a lower impact gesture while using your phone, such as Spotlight’s swipe down on the homescreen, as opposed to a long press on a physical button.

The requirement for spoken requests could be holding back Siri, and I’d personally love to see it become more accessible.

protrusions

Much has been said about the protruding camera lens of the iPhone 6. The focus is often on how hard Apple pushes the quality of its camera. Absolutely, Apple wants to stay near the top of the camera list, but I doubt that was the only conversation Apple had about the issue.

My phone was case-less for quite some time, along with the geekier of my peers. However, since the iPhone 4, it seems that a cased iPhone is easily the norm with average users. Prior to the iPhone 6, among close family, only 2 or 3 of us were usually case-less, out of 14 iPhones. Those of us with the iPhone 6 now all have cases. I would imagine Apple has more comprehensive data on this point, and if the percentage is as high as my anecdote suggests, it leads to two thoughts:

  1. A slight bump for the camera is completely negligible for a cased iPhone.
  2. The thickness of cases adds another reason to drive device thinness down to improve the design for the average customer.

On top of the aforementioned notion that a well performing camera is a critical part (if not the zenith) of the iPhone as a device, a high percentage of case purchasing users could have been a lock for the camera bump. Not to mention a mere ~$40 revenue bump from each iPhone 6 customer who opts for a first-party case from the get-go.

a game designer explains the counterintuitive secret to fun

“A voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” -Bernard Suits

blogs are cool

But, to the people who send email, to me or to any blogger: please consider publishing what you write instead of emailing it. Not because email sucks, but because more people than just me should be able to read what you wrote. You have something to add to the discussion.

The barrier to entry to publish something online with tools like Tumblr and Medium is so low, way more people should think this way.

my name is chuck skoda

This Instagram photo inspired me to find a fun anagram for my name.

I took to Google and found a site that deals in multi-word anagrams. “Chuck Skoda” wasn’t long enough to come up with too many interesting anagrams, so I looked at “My name is Chuck Skoda.” The results were pretty funny. Here are some of my favorites:

A Musky Machined Sock
Chammy Issued A Knock
“Chammy, Suck A Doeskin.”
A Kind Musk, My Coaches
Smacked A Music Honky
Yum, A Monks Disk Cache
Kinda Musky Mecca Hos
Kens A Machismo Ducky
I Chanced A Smoky Musk
“Dickey, Hack A Summons!”
Hmm, A Cocaine Dusk Sky
A Musky Kids Comanche

a week with ios eight

One week after WWDC, I’m still struggling to come up with talking points about how my experience with iOS 8 has changed how I use my phone. Frankly, the announcements this year were more exciting as a developer than as a user. Rather than just parroting some features that others have already covered better than I could, I’ll share some thoughts about the path that iOS 8 might be laying out for the future.

Given so many new updates for developers: extensions, widgets, full camera access, custom keyboards, continuity, iCloud Drive, HealthKit, and more, there is an overwhelming sense that the biggest changes we’ll see in iOS 8 are likely to come from third parties. It’s been hard to use my iPhone without imagining how current apps could take advantage of these new features, or what new categories of apps are possible for the first time.

One big rumor that we didn’t see addressed on stage was any mention of the oft-rumored iWatch. But after considering a number of the changes to iOS 8, I think the iWatch did make its mark on WWDC. The rumor of an Apple watch always seemed a little peculiar to me. What value could we really get out of a wrist device in a world where we already have an iPhone in our pocket?

An all new App Store, just for watch apps, seems unlikely, and a very limited environment for making valuable experiences. Notification Center widgets however are extending apps beyond the iOS fullscreen experience in a way that feels like a very nice fit for a notification driven device. Developers are being encouraged to fit their apps most critical information and functionality into much smaller constraints than they’re used to dealing with. This seems like an effort that could translate directly or indirectly to extending features to a watch.

On the surface, the tap-to-talk functionality of the Messages app seems like Apple admitting the value from transient messaging apps like Snapchat. However, it’s also a strikingly simple way to send a message from a device that has no keyboard for text input, a valuable feature to have on a watch.

Along with the push for continuity, carrying information and workflows between your connected devices, improvements to Siri, such as a hands-free way to engage with the assistant: “Hey, Siri,” and the potential of a wrist bound device to input valuable data to HealthKit, there is a compelling picture forming of what the rumored device could deliver in Apple’s forthcoming ecosystem. The rumored iWatch hasn’t been at the top of my wishlist, but I’m finally beginning to see some strong potential for what kind of features a wearable device could bring to the table.

I think we still have a lot to see from Apple this year.

frosted glass

More than once, I’ve looked for a way to execute a frosted glass appearance (a la iOS 7) in HTML5 without the need for JavaScript, extra markup, or a duplicate, blurred background image. I just recently wanted to do this again, and noticed someone doing something similar using psuedo-elements. It turns out it’s possible to do with filters (presently only in WebKit), so I took another crack at it, and here is the JSFiddle:

It’s far from perfect. How blurs are executed by CSS filters solicited some tricks to make them completely fill the background, and a trained eye will see some bleed on the edges. If you were to try different border sizes, etc. You would likely want to fudge with the numbers a bit to get appropriate coverage for the blur effect.

Let me know if you use this somewhere, I’d love to see it in action.

Update: It looks like you’ll be able to accomplish this effect with no tricks before too long.

reeder for mac beta

Today a public beta of Reeder 2 for Mac was released.

It has been a few months since I switched to Unread on my iPhone. Unread explored some interesting new design ideas, but it’s become clear over the past few weeks that many of the interactions are slower and more cumbersome than the corresponding actions in Reeder.

The new Mac beta is beautiful, and it was just the nudge I needed to switch back to Reeder on iPhone. If you use RSS at all, Reeder gets my highest recommendation. Silvio Rizzi has great intuition for user interaction, and Reeder has spent more time on my home screen than any third party app besides Tweetbot.

amazon launches ‘fire tv’

I imagine this will be just as successful for them as the Kindle Fire.

documents in the internet age

Back in 1983 when Microsoft Word was first released, there was no public notion of the Internet, email, or clouds that weren’t made of water vapor. Files that weren’t on paper, were merely a cute abstraction.

Today, data on a server is the baseline for stored information. It’s the most reliable source. In a world where bank transactions, books, articles, wikis, Facebook and their ilk, mail, messages, and all varieties of media exist in RAM before they exist anywhere else, (precious few of which ever find it to paper), the notion of a word processor for creating documents destined for 8.5″ x 11″ sheets seems quaint and antiquated.

Yesterday heralded a new era for Microsoft, or maybe a hearkening back to its roots, when the software was more important than the platform. Some say it’s too little too late, that Microsoft was too slow to get their products on iOS, and they missed the adoption of the core users of the platform. That might be true.

More notably though, a word processor isn’t a strong fit for a tablet. You’re authoring content on a glass rectangle in your hands, and most audiences will likely consume it in a similar fashion. Why this middle-man of a format? Greeting cards, newsletters, invitations, letters, resumés, announcements, all have found better homes for themselves on the Internet. If we see sharp declines in the use of Microsoft Word or other word processors, it will have more to do with people moving on from a notion of paper documents than it does from a faulty deployment strategy.

You never would have read this post if it required anything as cumbersome as being printed on a piece of paper.


@skoda on App.net @technochocolate on App.net