get dropbox

Dropbox is simply one of the greatest pieces of software to arrive since the advent of the Internet. It’s a cross-platform file storage and synchronization solution. In short, drag a file into your Dropbox folder; instantly it syncs the file to online storage, and replicates it onto all other computers that you have installed Dropbox using your account. You get immediate, no nonsense backup and syncing.

For me, it has replaced the need for thumb drives, I use it to share files related to a project with friends using shared folders, and using the public folder I can share download links with anyone, whether they have Dropbox or not. It has definitely saved the day a number of times.

The free account comes with 2 gigabytes of storage which isn’t too shabby, and if you follow this link to sign up and install the app, we’ll both get a bonus 250 megabytes of space. If you’re still curious about how it could help you, follow the link and check out their video.

the ipad and reading

Phone calls, texting, and everything else that requires the cell radio or GPS constitutes less than 20% of what I do with my iPhone. To me it already is a device for media consumption, mostly reading, and lots of it. Reading news feeds, tweets, emails, blogs, and the vast reaches of the web are really the key functionality that I get out of my iPhone. If the activity of reading alone is a 20% better experience on the iPad, then even a Wi-Fi only model is at least as valuable to me as my phone.

But reading won’t be 20% better. From all the videos, tours, and previews, reading looks to be far and away better on iPad than it is on the iPhone. It’s clear that making reading a better experience is the cornerstone of the device. From its magazine form factor to its new bookstore, the iPad is geared towards making reading on an electronic device more simple and effective than ever.

The ‘phone’ component of my iPhone is really the least significant part of the device to me. I’m not planning to dump my iPhone anytime soon, but I easily see spending more time with my iPad than any other electronic device outside of my work computer.

ipad guided tours

These new guided tours posted by Apple this morning look amazing. In particular, I love the Keynote, Pages, and Numbers previews. They make the current generation of office productivity software look terrible by comparison.

apple gets trademark for ipad

It doesn’t matter who owns the trademark, the minute Apple declares the name of their latest gadget, that’s what the trademark gets tied to in the public eye. It becomes practically valueless to be used for any other product.

amazing fan made palm commercial

An awesome commercial for Palm Pre and Web OS. Almost makes me want one.

Just kidding.

hg init: a mercurial tutorial

If you are a developer who is not yet familiar with distributed revision control systems, this is a must read. An absolute must read! I was so confused about git/Mercurial until I read this. Awesome! (via Daring Fireball)

secrets of the nexus one’s screen

Things I already knew: The Google Nexus One has a terrible screen.

skip the payola

With the widespread media coverage stemming from the recent Wired article on iPhone app payola, it stands to reason that many people will be skeptical about the validity of websites focused on app recommendation. I have a number of sites that I follow for iPhone app critiques with such a high emphasis on design that it’s hard to imagine they are requesting money in exchange for reviews. I’ve seen enough great apps listed that I have pretty good confidence they’re looking for the very best. In case you want some places to keep an eye out for good apps, below is the list of sites that I follow. Most of them are iPhone specific, but some branch out into Mac or other software.

In alphabetical order:

If you are a developer who has paid for a review at one of these sites, I’d love to hear about it so I can remove them from my list.

apple touchscreen domination

The group that published initial data about their phone touchscreen test came under some critique because of the human variable. So they replaced the person with a robot, a change MythBusters would be proud of. And guess what, with the robot the iPhone is even more clearly the standout winner in this competition.

the rhema app

In the off chance that you haven’t heard me mention it elsewhere, the Rhema app, our first release from Sky Balloon, went live in the App Store today.

opera mini countup

Concering the Opera Mini Countup for application approval. John Gruber said:

…Opera Mini isn’t doing JavaScript client-side, so it doesn’t break the “no interpreters” rule.

Does that mean that dynamic JavaScript applications don’t work? Such as Google Mail, Maps, and Docs?

nintendo 3ds announced

3D without glasses? Very curious how this works out. Looks like we’ll see it at E3.

rumor: palm may ditch web-os for android

Are you kidding me? I find this idea crazy. Palm would be far better served by open sourcing WebOS, and competing against Android head-on.

UPDATE: A source within Palm says the claim was inaccurate, and they are still committed to WebOS.

binder clips as cable catchers

Lifehacker does tend to post a lot of dumb stuff, but things like this are why I’m still following them.

the case for repositioning scroll indicators

Just the other day I was thumbing through an article in an iPhone app I read with frequently. I was kind of in a hurry, and found myself wondering how close I was to the end of the story. Lo and behold, I couldn’t find the indicator. Where was it? Well, it was right there on the screen — underneath my thumb. For right-handers the placement of the scroll indicators are counter intuitively positioned with a bias toward the corner of the screen commonly obscured by the hand.

The reasoning is obvious. Scroll bars have nearly always occupied this part of a window or content pane in desktop user interfaces. But until recently, this has been a hands-off experience controlled with a mouse. With iPhone OS, scroll indicators are just that — indicators. They usually have very little visual impact, especially considering they disappear when the view is still. I propose that these indicators should favor the opposite corner of the screen along the top and left edges. After all, an ‘indicator’ isn’t doing it’s job if it can’t be seen. Not to leave out left handers, perhaps this would be a good global option in the General section of the Settings app.

warning against subpixel rendering

Recently I was pointed to Thomas Maier’s site and stumbled across this article on using ‘subpixel hinting’ in Photoshop. This technique gives sharper image quality for almost all standard LCD screens in their standard orientation. So what’s the problem? The iPhone and the iPad. These new classes of device are made to view things in whichever orientation seems appropriate to the user. And with these platforms gaining steam all the time, statically subpixel-rendering assets becomes counter-productive.

Pixel Orientation Diagram

The sharpness comes because the images take into consideration the minute differences in position of the red, green, and blue subpixels that make up each pixel. When we start physically altering the orientation of the screen (and thereby rotating the content that is displayed) our work to increase sharpness is not only lost, but in fact sharpness is actually worsened. In the case where the screen is rotated right or left, the subpixel rendering isn’t even working on the same axis as the subpixels anymore, and the even worse case, when it is upside down, the hinting works directly against the physical order of the subpixels.

On top of this issue, screen technology is still rapidly changing. Google’s Nexus One, for instance, has a screen with one green subpixel and one of either red or blue subpixels alternating in each adjacent pixel. Using subpixel rendering to generate assets bakes in assumptions about hardware that are no longer as valid as they once were. Point being, we should rely on hardware advancement to give us better image clarity and fidelity. One day the hardware might demand higher resolution images of us and offset the data for the subpixels dynamically, but we should avoid creating assets only fit for a single display system.

Update: This article was previously using the term ‘subpixel hinting’. It has come to my attention that what I am describing isn’t a correct usage of that term. I was simply responding using the language from Thomas’ article as I understood it. Font hinting is a term for aligning a font with the raster grid of a monitor so that it takes advantage of solid pixel edges where possible. What I’m cautioning against here is generating any art assets with a baked in presumption about subpixel arrangement to prevent improper display on screens of varying orientation. It appears that subpixel rendering is a more accurate term, so I’ve substituted it for subpixel hinting throughout the post. (Thanks to Typographica for the heads up.)

hover jet

This is truly amazing.

get human

Awesome site to help you get in contact with an actual person at a big company. (via Daring Fireball)

death metal rooster

This provided me a good laugh this afternoon.

battery upkeep

More and more of my electronics use rechargeable batteries. I thought I’d look up Apple’s recommendations for how to make them last the longest. Here are some quotes from their website:

For proper maintenance of a lithium-based battery, it’s important to keep the electrons in it moving occasionally. Be sure to go through at least one charge cycle per month (charging the battery to 100% and then completely running it down).

Apple does not recommend leaving your portable plugged in all the time. An ideal use would be a commuter who uses her MacBook Pro on the train, then plugs it in at the office to charge. This keeps the battery juices flowing.

early morning purchase

My iPad was officially pre-ordered mere seconds after the Apple Store came back up at 5:30am this morning. I went with the 16GB WiFi-only model. In case your curious here’s why:

  1. I have an iPhone with 3G & GPS, and I plan on having one for the foreseeable future. To me, my pocket device is really where GPS and a constant internet connection are useful. My iPhone is where I want to get notifications, whether texts, calls, or emails. For instant communication anywhere, it’s still the go-to device. That, and the extra months wait, $130 price tag, and $30/month service make the WiFi model a no brainer for me.
  2. I’m starting to realize I’ll never have enough storage in a highly portable device to store all of my media. And if I can’t have it all, then having 16GB of it isn’t much more of a compromise than having 32 or 64 gigabytes of it. Apple always charges a seemingly unjustifiable premium for storage in their portable devices as a way of differentiating price-points. It just doesn’t necessitate an upgrade for me.
  3. Chances are, this isn’t the iPad I’ll have five years from now — maybe not even two years from now. I can wait it out and let the changes come to me as they trickle into the baseline models of future generations of the iPad.

iPad Receipt

It was the option that made sense for me, and maybe I’ve helped inform your decision if you’ve been thinking about getting an iPad. Now hurry up April 3rd!


the sandpit

A stunning tilt-shift video of a day in New York City (via Shawn Blanc).

contextual user interface

This weekend I read a great article by Matt Gemmell aptly titled iPad Application Design. He has a lot of great insight into what applications should look like on the device. In particular, he brings up globally-positioned editing UI, and shows some examples of how cluttered many interfaces have gotten on modern desktop machines. He points to how much more effective contextual controls can be on a device like the iPad.

Context menus are something I have come to realize that Windows handled better than Mac, heavily due to the convention of a two button mouse, which Apple seemed to so vehemently oppose. But application code has been object oriented for such a long time now, why haven’t most of our interfaces become object oriented? I think for a great deal of our tasks, contextual interfaces make more sense than globally-positioned controls.

ipad aesthetics

“But as someone who prefers tidiness and iPhone screen real estate, I think the iPad interface is a step in the right direction.”

I totally agree. Everyone has been hating on the sparse and lonely iPad homescreen, but I’m all for the simplicity.

plants, zombies, and iphones

This weekend I started playing Plants vs. Zombies by PopCap Games on my iPhone. On Friday at work a number of fellow employees were encouraging me to try it out, but I work at a videogame company, so game recommendations are white noise. Until Rob spoke up (@vash18). He heard the conversation over the cubicle wall, and sent me an instant message saying, “you owe it to yourself to play Plants vs. Zombies.” That sounded like a pretty bold statement, and it was enough to yield a purchase. Why not, I had some credit lying around in my iTunes account.

Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game. My personal favorite of our games at 5TH Cell, Lock’s Quest, loosely falls into this same category. Enemies approach your base, and you set up defenses to protect against them. In PvZ, enemies = zombies, base = your house, and defenses = plants.

PopCap is a well respected studio. They’re known for having a pretty dominant position in casual games. Admittedly, I haven’t been much of a gamer in recent years, but PvZ has really caught my attention. This game really makes the iPhone shine as a platform for games. It feels as though PvZ is much more at home on iPhone than it is on the PC.

Many traditional gamers and developers haven’t taken the iPhone OS very seriously as a gaming platform. If it can’t support game genres that we’ve grown to love on other platforms, then it doesn’t quite stand up. When a new system comes out, we tend to view it through the lens of the history of videogames. What would Halo be like on this? How about GTA, or Mass Effect? But when we try to imagine our favorites on the iPhone, they just look like hamstrung versions of their console counterparts.

And it’s true. The iPhone wouldn’t support such games as we know them. It doesn’t have the power, or the input mechanisms that they’ve been built around. But just because the platform isn’t the logical step forward from the systems of yesterday, we can’t write it off. Look at the Wii. That caught us all by surprise, and you can’t deny it’s success.

Plants vs. Zombies really shows off the potential for a great gaming experience on the iPhone OS. When I try to think outside of the box of previous generations of games to what kind of experiences could exist on the iPhone, it’s very exciting to me. Now if only Blizzard would port StarCraft II.

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