inspiring creativity

Codify circled the web today. A new app with the tagline “Make Anything on your iPad.” That’s a bit hyperbolic, but it does inspire you to think creatively.

This reminds me of the stuff that got me excited about technology when I was growing up. Things like playing with Logo on the Apple II computers in our elementary school. I made the other second graders look like fools with all the awesome things I got that little onscreen triangle to do. Hours were spent toying around in HyperCard on our Macintosh Plus, entertaining myself with my imagination. Not to mention Kid Pix, MacPaint, and many others.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia being kicked up as I’m reading the Steve Jobs biography, but seeing this kind of thing on the iPad gets me excited about computers all over again. When I think about how these tools encouraged and inspired me to learn, and consider what the iPad brings to the table, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

Remember all those people saying that the closed nature of iOS was going to stifle this kind of experience for the next generation? To that I would say, nobody complained that you couldn’t create things on the Apple II. Nobody called it a consumption device. And yet, in what universe is the Apple II more capable of creative expression than the iPad?

Think, a kid today can run around with an iPad or iPhone and record and edit a movie, on a single device. Another one can write a short story, without feeling intimidated because they don’t know how to touch type. It’s all right there on the screen. Paint a picture, record a song, and with something like Codify, make your own game!

If I had an iPad as a kid, my parents would have needed a crow bar to pry it away from me, every single night. I can’t wait to see what the next generation starts to do with technology.

imessengers be warned

iMessage, one of the headlining features of iOS 5, has a peculiarity with handling multiple recipient messages that you should keep in mind.

There have been a number of instances where I’m seeing peoples’ replies to messages that I received from someone else. In some cases it has been clear that they were intended as a private response. If you send a text to multiple iMessage users, anyone who responds inline will have their message sent to everyone. I previously thought this was an issue with people having “Group Messaging” enabled in Settings→Messages, but apparently this functionality comes standard with iMessage. As far as I’ve been able to determine, you can’t turn it off without disabling iMessage itself.

These messages will show an address bar at the top, so you can see that multiple people are in the conversation. However, this still poses a few problems:

  1. When you get one of the new banner notifications or lock screen alerts, it only lists the sender. There is no indication that it’s part of a group message. If you happen to jump in and respond quickly without being mindful of the contacts listed at the top, you very well may send your message to people you weren’t intending to.
  2. When you’re sending multiple people a message, you should assume you’re also sending around a list of everyones’ contact information as well. How can you privately send multiple people the same message? It doesn’t appear that iMessage gives you that option.

I could be missing something, but I’d imagine this is not going to work for everybody. If you have some information about this that I don’t, please fill me in. Otherwise, message multiple recipients with caution in the meantime.

photo stream failings

Photo Stream is a great new feature in iOS 5/iCloud. It makes really great strides towards the whole PC Free situation by taking your Camera Roll online.

But it has two glaring problems:

  1. It makes the assumption that every picture taken or saved, along with all your screen grabs, deserves a place in the cloud.
  2. Given that assumption, it still provides no way to delete those one-off images individually from the stream.

This really diminishes the possible uses of Photo Stream. I’d love to throw it up as a sideshow on my Apple TV, but the experience suffers when that homescreen I shared or those images I catalogued for work pop up.

I’m looking forward to using it more once this gets addressed.

must see videos

A few videos popped up this week that you have to see, and likely most of you already have. If not, check out the sound effect guy from Police Academy making his voice sound convincingly identical to an electric guitar, complete with finger noise and feedback. It gets better and better all the way until the end of the video.

Michael Winslow – Whole Lotta Love

Also, on a nerdier note, someone has posted a demonstration of quantum locking. I won’t try to describe it here (as I haven’t read about how it works yet), but it will break your mind to see it in action.

Quantum Levitation


goodbye steve

Steve Jobs, chief misfit, knew that the best way to see the future was to build it. His handiwork was a crucial part of inspiring my creativity, even from childhood. From Kid Pix creations to HyperCard stacks, those early experiences with technology resonated with me.

It’s impossible to measure the impact he had on the world, but the desire of so many to reflect on his life speaks to how much he will be missed.

Thanks Steve for never squandering the time you had. Our prayers are for comfort and peace to those who loved you most dearly.

my dad, on yesterday’s news

I read for 20 years that Apple was just barely hanging on. Now with Exxon/Mobil, one of the two wealthiest companies on earth. Two lessons: 1) keep believing what you believe in; and 2) Don’t pay too much attention to the media.

eye phone four ess

In Tim Cook’s first product introduction since being officially named CEO, Apple introduced us to the iPhone 4S yesterday. There was an above average rumor mill leading up to this release, so let’s take a look at how things faired.

Confirmed Rumors

The A5 processor was a pretty fair bet. Following the apparent pattern established last year with the iPad and introduction of the A4, there was good reason to believe the latest and greatest iPhone should run on Apple’s latest and greatest chip. By all accounts the 4S is snappier, and by the looks of it this new computing power is put to good use.

Ever since they acquired Siri in April 2010, rumors have been floating around that Apple would reintroduce their voice recognition technology as a major component of the iPhone. Leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, those rumors began to have a consistent voice. Apple opted to keep the name, and Siri assistant was reborn as the key new feature of the iPhone 4S. While the product demos suggest that Siri is a very capable assistant, I assume there is a reason Apple has chosen to designate it as beta. Rather than jumping up and down for what Siri offers today, I’m much more excited about where this technology will be five years from now.

The 8 megapixel camera was right on the money. Fortunately, Apple didn’t stop there. Better optics, a much improved backside illuminated sensor, and a bump up to 1080p video are all very welcome changes. All this on top of the amazing photo software in the App Store, and the iPhone 4S is the best consumer point and shoot camera you can get your hands on.

Denied Rumors

Numerous iPhone cases and anecdotal evidence pointed to a radical new enclosure design for the “iPhone 5” that many people were expecting to see Tuesday. A sleek, smoothly-beveled metal backing certainly could have made for a beautiful phone. The steam that these rumors picked up just goes to show you how much stake people place in the appearance of their handset. I wouldn’t doubt that there are a some prototypes locked up somewhere in the Apple campus that resemble these designs, but people hoping for a visual refresh this time around were disappointed.

Some late breaking rumors suggested Sprint had scored exclusivity on the purported cutting edge next-generation “iPhone 5” model. Reports said they had agreed to purchase millions of the devices, without regard to whether they would be bought by customers, in order to lock in the deal. While Sprint did make the cut as a new carrier for the 4S, the immensity of the deal was clearly overblown.

One of the longer standing rumors has been an iPhone with a larger screen. This seemed to gain some support from the case designs that were floating around. To me this has never been likely. If you don’t think Apple ran some seriously thorough research and development before landing on the 3.5 inch screen of the iPhone, you might have a narrow view of how they operate. Changing the physical size of the screen affects interaction and software design more than many people would realize. Frankly, I would be surprised if we ever see an iPhone with a larger or smaller screen.

Out of Left Field

Apart from rumors, we saw two new apps debut that hadn’t been talked up by the rumor mill. While they aren’t exclusively for the iPhone 4S, they are noteworthy.

Cards is an app that lets you build greeting cards right on your phone using your photos and a number of templates. Apple will print, envelope, address, and ship your card for $2.99. This represents a small subset of Apple’s print offerings available in iPhoto, but it’s a practical app that I’m sure will get good use.

Find My Friends allows you to keep track of where your friends are whether you’re at an airport, a museum, or a party on the beach. They even suggest you could use it to check and see if your kids made it to school. A really simple idea that will definitely come in handy on certain occasions. Important for an app like this, it seems to have very simple and transparent privacy controls.

Certainly from a technological standpoint the iPhone 4S looks like a substantial bump up from the iPhone 4. While many people are disappointed not to see an iPhone 5, let us remember the 3GS. It’s main advantages over the 3G were a better camera, and faster internals. Sound familiar?

Ask anyone who upgraded from a 3G to a 3GS, and you’ll hear nearly universal satisfaction. As of last quarter, the two and a half year old 3GS was still the second best selling handset in the world, only behind the iPhone 4.

I anticipate a similar story with the 4S.

naming whiplash

The original iPhone was obviously named iPhone. No one was surprised by this. The press had already been calling it that for the better part of a decade. But one of the major criticisms of the original iPhone was its lack of 3G networking. Apple was apparently docked hard enough for this that they wanted to address the shortcoming right in the name when they released the iPhone 3G. This was technically the second iPhone, but 3G was a pretty big deal, so iPhone 2 didn’t work.

Then comes along the next iteration, technically, the third iPhone, but you can’t call it iPhone 3 when you’ve already released the iPhone 3G. The 3GS had two big differentiators, faster internals and a better camera. However, being that it wasn’t a radically new design, Apple decided it was enough to tag an S for speed on the end.

Finally come WWDC 2010, we can finally call this next thing what it is, iPhone 4. All is right in the world. Apple is set up to sequentially name their future iPhones. Everyone will be happy, and no one will be confused.

And then comes the iPhone 4S… wha-WHAT? So, now the fifth iPhone is called iPhone 4S. So, what the heck do they call the next one, iPhone 6? iPhone 5 would be incorrect. Now everything is all messed up again.

My guess is that the next iPhone will go back to the beginning and simply be called iPhone. A numberless product line has worked for both iPods and Macs for ages now, and frankly I can’t imagine what else they could do going forward.

@skoda on @technochocolate on