wireless dual-screen gaming

The good part of the video in the linked post starts at 1:28.

Nintendo just announced the WiiU last week, but I feel like the iPad 2/Apple TV combo presents similarly compelling gameplay scenarios, available now. You can play games like this today with the optional AV Adapter, and as of iOS 5 this fall, it will be completely wireless.

a week with ios five

My first week with iOS 5 hasn’t been earth shattering, but it has been ground breaking. What Apple has accomplished is reducing friction in the user experience. They prove time and time again that they can repeat this action, which is more than competitors can claim.

The biggest difference in daily usage comes with Notification Center. It has its share of rough edges, but it has distinct advantages over the modal dialogs that have been frustrating users since the dawn of the push notification. The messages feel much more like notifications and less like interruptions. The new system might lack originality, but the notifications work as promised, making this a big leap forward. The lock screen notifications pose some privacy issues. They are configurable, but not to the degree of what content they will display. Mail notifications in particular could use more granular control.

Apart from Notification Center, the changes are so well considered that you almost forget they exist. The geek inside wants to tinker and fine-tune the experience, but it’s unnecessary because ‘it just works’ was more than hyperbole.

Wi-Fi Sync was an omission that had gotten more glaring as each year passed. Although, it isn’t enabled in the beta, tethered syncing also gained improvements indicative of how the experience will work wirelessly. Your device can now be freely operated while syncing, and a rotating icon in the status bar alerts you to the reason your phone isn’t responding quite as quickly. Otherwise, this is iTunes syncing as usual, so not much to talk about here.

The new iMessage protocol is almost completely transparent. When messaging other iOS 5 devices from your phone, messages are automatically sent with iMessage. They bring the benefit of delivery and read receipts, as well as typing notifications to indicate the recipient is working on their response. If you aren’t rocking an unlimited text plan this could significantly undercut the number of text messages you send each month. SMS is basically relegated to a fallback for messaging people without iPhones. iMessage is an incredible feature that you will hardly notice.

And then there’s iCloud. Also transparent, but undoubtedly the most revolutionary piece of the WWDC keynote pie. iCloud isn’t one entirely new and cohesive piece of technology. It’s a smattering of Apple tech both old and new that completes a larger overall picture of your digital life in the cloud.

Device syncing is nothing new to a MobileMe user. Confidently updating a contact or calendar event, and seeing that change ‘instantly’ propagate to another device has been experienced by anyone willing to pay $99/year for such a novel service. What is new with iCloud is that this functionality is available to all developers with the new APIs. Apple has already demoed document syncing with iWork, and we’re going to see apps big and small taking advantage of iCloud to improve their experience across multiple devices.

Managing media has always been a sticking point of syncing with iTunes. Your computer, as your digital hub, stored all your media which you would then pare down to get some desired subset to sync onto your iPod, iPhone, etc. Now with the apparent flick of a switch we can delete songs off our phones, and download them again if we wish. This is true of songs, books, and apps from their respective stores. Not only can they all be downloaded again free of charge, but a list of previous purchases is maintained, so you can always reclaim something that you have previously purchased. This doesn’t seem to be true of movies or shows purchased on iTunes, but that doesn’t mean an agreement for such a thing couldn’t be reached in the future. iTunes Match enables you to treat all your songs in this manner (for $24.99/year), regardless of whether they were purchased with iTunes. But I think Apple is right in assuming this feature will only be necessary for a smaller percentage of users.

Photostream is one of the newer pieces of the puzzle. As our iPhones and iPads take more and more pictures, Photostream soaks them up and parades them across your iCloud account for you to view and copy to your other devices as you see fit. It shows the last 30 days of images (up to 1000) from all your devices. The limitations seem fairly straightforward given the large amounts of data required for storing digital photos, but I could see people being willing to pay for a solution in the future that would make this more flexible.

Cloud backup is possibly the most revolutionary pillar of iCloud. This is what enables PC Free to be a key feature of iOS 5. Your device settings, app data, and Camera Roll get backed up to the cloud from which you can restore the data to a new iOS device wirelessly next time you drop your phone in the lake. This is largely possible due to the fact that Apple already stores your music, books, and apps on their servers. Those things excluded, Apple gives you a 5GB limit of data for your device backups, with evidence that more will be available in the future at a price. Right now, my iPhone 4 backup is about 1.9GB, the majority of which is the 516 items in my Camera Roll. To contrast, my iPad is a mere 252MB, as I have a first generation unit with no camera.

While also subtle in how it affects day to day use, there is a feeling that overtime the advancements of iCloud will have an ever widening impact. Not only painting a new experience for the iPhone and iPad, but broader strokes that change how we think of, interact with, and design the next generation of software.


Before object-oriented programming, we had data and methods, separate and distinct, yet indivisible. Data always needs to be interpreted and manipulated, and methods make that happen. At some point along the evolution of software engineering, it became evident that we should give up the freedom of a world with no walls, and create encapsulation to hold data together with the associated methods that give it meaning and value.

The walls let us put things in order, wrap our work neatly in a box, structure and build. Relinquishing minor freedoms to manipulate data at a low level, we created a newer freedom to design software at a higher level.

From data and methods, you can step one rung higher in the abstraction of software. You will find yourself at files and applications, separate and distinct, yet indivisible.

Apple made a firm stance on Monday. That for the majority of people, they believe the freedom associated with a traditional file system is not worth the trade-off in complexity. Coupling files with the associated apps is more than logical, it’s downright simplistic.

Now there are hurdles. Sharing files with other apps is among them, but they are cases that deserve special treatment, rather than broad, heavy solutions like file managers. The Camera Roll has been a fantastic example of one such solution in iOS, and similar hubs could easily exist for other files as well. The reality is, sharing data with people and services has been easier on the iPhone than ever before. That little “Share” button works wonders. The simplicity outweighs the hurdles by more than just a small margin.

The Finder is my second least favorite Mac app (behind iTunes). There is a lot of promise in an environment free of a user managed file system. I find the concept most welcome.

backblaze external drives, a warning

When I noticed this evening that the amount of data listed as backed up by Backblaze was much smaller than it had been previously, I did some sleuthing. I found some very important information in the external drives help pages (emphasis mine):

Backblaze works best if you leave the external hard drive attached to your computer all the time. However, Backblaze will backup external USB and Firewire hard drives that are detached and re-attached as long as you remember to re-attach the hard drive at least once every 30 days. If the drive is detached for more than 30 days, Backblaze interprets this as data that has been permanently deleted and securely deletes the copy from the Backblaze datacenter. The 30 day countdown is only for drives that have been unplugged. There is no countdown for local files.

If you, like me, have something important on an external drive—like all the photos you’ve ever taken, or something like that—be sure to plug it in regularly. You might want to make a recurring alarm to remind you. Just thought you should know.

a glimpse of windows 8

A preview of Windows 8, which kind of looks like a giant version of Windows Phone 7 and regular desktop Windows 7 living side-by-side.

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