japanese researchers invent elastic water

What a crazy world we’re living in!

thoughts on flash

The final word on flash.

Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

super mario crossover

[Flash required] How long will it be until this guy gets a cease and desist letter from Nintendo?

next-generation iphone to go on sale during wwdc?

This seems way out there to me. Having looked at the second beta version of [REDACTED] 4.0, it is far from ready for primetime. I’d have a hard time believing they would be able to pull all this together for an early June release.

letting go

Today Apple announced the dates for the 2010 Worldwide Developer Conference. They also mentioned the categories for the Apple Design Awards, and made an apparent omission of awards for the Mac. This year seems entirely focused on iPhone and iPad software. At each WWDC Apple gives out awards for software that exemplifies great design. These awards are extremely valuable to developers, and can turn what was merely a project into a thriving company. This has many developers crying foul, and wondering if Apple is still behind the Mac platform.

They are, I believe, still behind the Mac, but without question to a lesser extent. Of all companies, Apple seems most keen to the understanding that you have to let go of the old to make way for something new and great. They left behind pre-OS X systems a long time ago. They have left behind serial ports, floppy drives, SCSI, PowerPC, and many, many more. Given some hardware decisions within the last year, I’d wager to say they’re poised to leave FireWire behind too. Everything they abandon is decried by someone who cares, but Apple sees that the new doesn’t thrive when it’s competing for space (space in any sense: physical, retail, economic, usage, mental, etc.) with the old. This readiness to make way for the future at the expense of the old sets Apple apart from the crowd.

With the iPad, Apple is presenting a new platform. It’s a platform that is leaving behind the keyboard and mouse. Here and there are complaints about all the things it doesn’t do. Rest assured, it will do or replace those things in days to come. This is only the beginning, but for the new platform to succeed, the old platform needs to yield some of the ‘space’ that it’s been holding on to. Apple is slowly starting to make this happen. Apple stopped participating in MacWorld, they are no longer maintaining the Mac downloads page, they have cancelled the Mac vs. PC ad campaign, and they have apparently left the Mac out of the Apple Design Awards. This trend isn’t likely to about-face.

I don’t plan to stop using my Mac anytime soon, but I do think the day is approaching when my iPad, or some facsimile, is what I call ‘my computer’. My Mac will just be some machine, sitting lonely at home, to do some backups, or maintain some database or something.

mac & the ipad, history repeats itself

This is a great article I saw a few days ago on slashdot of all places. I’m surprised it doesn’t seem to have been picked up by a lot of people. It offers an intriguing look at the parallels between the release of the original Mac, iPhone, and now, iPad.

Few will remember, but, when the Mac debuted in 1984, there were no arrow keys on the keyboard. That was a big deal. Almost every application then in existence depended on the arrow keys (then called cursor keys) for navigation. With that one stroke, Steve reduced the number of apps that could be easily ported to the Mac from tens of thousands to zero, ensuring that this new computer would have a long and painful childhood.

It was one of several strategies specifically designed to ensure that existing software would not run on this new machine because existing software, in Steve’s eyes, sucked (an opinion I share). The absence of those four keys ensured that any developer who wanted to have software appear on the Mac was going to have to start over and write software that conformed to the Mac interface, not the keyboard-oriented precursors to MS-DOS.

volcano lightning

Coolest… picture… ever… (via @blankenship)

this is apple’s next iphone

Alternative title: The Last Pre-release iPhone to Ever Leave the Cupertino Headquarters

changes ’round here

You may have noticed that I’ve been drizzling in some updates to the site recently, the biggest of which has been giving the site a new identity. I feel like I’ve been having more to write about lately surrounding technology, mainly Apple stuff. My previous charles’ blog ‘branding’ was never a good idea, just something I defaulted to when I couldn’t think of anything better. I wanted to make sure that people who stopped by the site weren’t driven away by the fact that it looked very much like a personal blog. I think it could be a valuable read for people interested in technology, and I didn’t want to be driving them away at the homepage (which is what my analytics data suggested was happening).

I’ve also cleaned up the site even further. There are some navigation icons at the top that let me simplify things quite a bit. The about page now has links to other places to connect with me online. Before, this was the main functionality of the footer, which is now just the copyright notice. The archive page seems like an easier and more permanent way to browse old content, and it allowed me to remove the default expression engine pagination that I was never happy with (yes, that is a preposition at the end of this sentence). I also removed my dedicated photo page. I wasn’t using it nearly as much as I had planned, and so it seemed most logical just to pull the photos into the main content of the blog.

Hopefully the site is more functional now. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and thanks for reading.

the best way to give advice: offer information

This is a trick I picked up subconsciously, but I know I’ve been using it for a while. It’s a great way to give advice, but leave the chooser feeling in charge. It works — really well.

nike free run

Recent research has suggested that running barefoot is better for you, and less prone to injury. Who would have figured that our feet have been designed for running! Until now you’ve needed to pick up some weird socks with individual toes to do the task with at least a little protection for your feet. Now Nike has released some shoes that let you pull off ‘barefoot’ running with a few less awkward stares.

on apple and ethics

Today Apple previewed iPhone OS 4.0 to the press, and released a beta to developers. Along with the beta came a new developer agreement. It specifically prohibits submitting apps to Apple that link to iPhone OS APIs using a third party “intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool.” Most notably, this affects the soon to be released Adobe Flash Professional CS5, which features a tool to export flash applications to iPhone binaries.

On this topic Marco Arment tweeted the following:

I’d rather Apple beat Adobe on merit, not anticompetitive legal maneuvers made possible by their ethically questionable gatekeeper position.

It’s understandable to me that Apple’s recent decisions to enforce their patents and place other restrictions on their iPhone OS have turned a few heads. We’re very used to the open platform that exists on the Mac. But even the Mac OS is more closed than Windows and certainly Linux, mainly by the legal restriction limiting its use to hardware that Apple sells. However, to throw into question the ethics of these choices is laughable to me. Apple seems to be held to a much higher standard than any other company. Maybe it’s what we expect, because they make such great things.

As I alluded to back in November concerning the approval process employed by Apple to release iPhone apps, people have been buying and using videogame consoles for decades that make the iPhone ecosystem look like a wonderland of freedom and openness. Just because Apple’s devices are perceived and compared among the landscape of more open systems doesn’t say anything about the ethics of how they’re handling the iPhone/iPad as a platform. I’m not behind anti-competition, but even if that is what’s happening here, we can’t hold Apple to a different standard than everyone else.

the ipad

Everyone keeps asking me what the iPad is for, in other words, what’s the killer app? John Gruber has it right:

The truth is that the App Store is the killer app. The iPad is meant for anything that can be represented on a 10-inch color touchscreen.

things i don’t like about the ipad

As a change of pace, I’d like to start my comments regarding my initial hands on experience with the iPad by listing some things that I don’t like about the device. Too often I feel thrown into the fanboy camp by people who don’t realize that I do my best to consider all sides of the various arguments, and I’m not in fact happy with every little thing that Apple does. So without further ado, here are some frustrations I’ve had with the device after a few days working with it.

The browsing experience isn’t quite the same as on a PC, and I’m not talking about Flash. The omission of Flash actually makes me happy. I’ve always disliked it, and have blogged about it when the fabled Apple Tablet was only a whisper. My main gripe with Flash is that it breaks the consistent user experience of the web, and in a few places, I feel that the iPad has done that too.

  • Links: In many places links don’t seem to activate on initial touch, but require a double-tap to engage. Whereas in other places, a single touch seems to suffice. I don’t exactly know what the differentiation is, which makes it frustrating when that first tap doesn’t do what I expected. Maybe there are cues about what type of interaction is desired that I’m not privy to, but it’s frustrated me more than once.
  • Scrolling: Okay, I had written a complaint about not being able to scroll an individual content pane in a website (such as the article list in Google Reader). I have since stumbled on the fact that using two fingers instead of one doesn’t scroll the webpage, but it actually scrolls the underlying content. So, this is now more of a frustration with a new UI interaction that wasn’t communicated to me. Fortunately, it was easy enough to stumble upon by myself.

Given all this, there is somewhat of a bit of ‘magic’ behind browsing on the iPad. It’s really fluid and enjoyable. Whoops, sorry, back to annoyances.

Global Data Store
Let me go on record as saying I don’t want a traditional file system. A good portion of my time is wasted navigating the file systems our current computers have coalesced. They’re deep, ugly, and many of the files are of no concern to me. But storing, organizing, and sharing user generated files is an important task to many (if not most) people. This frustration came up last night when I was helping create a keynote presentation for a friend to use on a weekend business trip. Now a lot of people have become really accustomed to sharing files via email, and the iPad handles this pretty well. But you run into a problem when the 14MB presentation file is a little too big for Hotmail’s attachment limit. Perhaps we should blame Hotmail, but all the email providers have some limit. Who’s to say my file will never be 50MB. This is a problem you can obviously get around in a hundred ways. I happened to share it on Dropbox, but chances are people with less savvy might have had a harder time than I did. If I encountered this problem in the first few days with the iPad, other people are likely having it too. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to offer to Apple. I can think of many concepts for global file storage, but none are a clear winner. Besides the fact that I’m really behind Apple wanting to maintain the inherent simplicity of the iPad. I’m hoping they come up with a great solution for this. You never know, maybe we’ll see it Thursday.

If you track with Apple news (which seems to be indistinguishable from the mainstream press recently), you’ve probably heard that some iPad users are experiencing problems with WiFi. I happen to be one of those users. A few times a day at work, my WiFi connection has been dropping without warning. Granted, our WiFi network doesn’t have the greatest track record. However, it works with my iPhone, so I would expect it to work at least as well on my iPad. Once it drops, it usually won’t reconnect right away. Sometimes it asks for the password, which doesn’t seem to help to reenter. A few times restarting my iPad has seemed to fix the problem, but it’s hard to pin down the real cause. Most of the home networks I’ve been on seem to work fine. Perhaps it’s an issue with the wireless security type being used at work. When connected, the WiFi seems to work great, so this is something I’m assuming will get fixed shortly via a software update.

Now that I’ve aired some of the issues I’ve had, I want to point out that I think my iPad is great. It certainly performs above my expectations. Everyone I’ve given a hands-on demo to becomes visibly excited, and I can see people really understanding how this new computer could fit into their lives. Stay tuned, as I’m planning to post some more impressions in days to come.

john patrick on the ipad

Awesome blog linked by Gruber from the former vice president of IBM:

…the iPad will change the model of personal computing — not immediately and not for everyone, but for many millions of people the PC will begin to look like a dinosaur.

robot folds laundry

I need this!!!

office april fools

Today Joe, our Managing Director, came into his office to a stack of letters, resignation letters — from everyone in our company. It was prank on Joe and us at the same time. Someone, still unknown, handcrafted letters for each employee that are both comical, and personally relevant. ‘My’ resignation letter, typeset in Chiller, reads as follows:

To 5TH Cell Management,

I have really enjoyed my experience at 5TH Cell, but it’s time for me to move on in my career. As a result, I have taken a job at Apple, as Steve Job’s assistant’s assistant. Please consider this as my resignation. Today will be my last day.

Respectfully yours,

Chuck Skoda

ipad springboard breaks spatiality

I’m interested to see how much of an issue this is, and if nothing else it will make icon design even more important on iPad than it’s been on iPhone. (via Shawn Blanc)

the ipad launch

Great article by Stephen Fry for Time. Here is my favorite exchange from Fry speaking with Jonathon Ive, Senior VP of Industrial Design:

I put to designer Ive the matter of all the features that are missing from the iPad. “In many ways, it’s the things that are not there that we are most proud of,” he tells me. “For us, it is all about refining and refining until it seems like there’s nothing between the user and the content they are interacting with.”

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