the real personal computer

If the years following January 2007 have been any indication, touch is rapidly fulfilling its destiny to become the predominant human-computer interface, and it will have a reign spanning multiple decades.

Desktop and laptop computers are essential tools for people in a wide variety of fields. Many of the tasks they’ve come to tackle were hard to even imagine thirty years ago, but calling them “personal computers” hasn’t masked the fact that they haven’t been much more personal than your letter opener. Traditional PCs require that you come to them on their terms, overcoming numerous physical and intellectual abstractions. The iPad was the first computer built to meet you on your terms. It brings the last 35 years of digital technology into the physical world in a way so natural, not only do grandmas and toddlers get it, but so do kittens and lizards.

If we aren’t counting iPads and other tablets as PCs, then PCs are well on the road to becoming a radically less relevant category, falling fast and hard. In twenty years, the computer an average human uses will look a lot more like an iPad than it does like a PC. That is, if tablets aren’t PCs, in twenty years people will be saying “what’s a PC?”

citation technique

Continuing the theme of my last post, Nick Disabato describes his attempt at solving the text referencing problem in his upcoming series of design essays, Distance.

Distance doesn’t have page numbers; instead, it has paragraph numbers at the beginning of each paragraph, which direct readers to the right place in the essay. In the PDF and physical book, these are to the left of each paragraph. Kindle’s and ePub’s paragraphs begin with them. And in ePub, Kindle, and PDF, each of these is represented by a permalink that can be used in a specific citation.

We know this isn’t entirely novel, but maybe it is for interactive texts. And we’re well aware that it proscribes a specific citation style that “breaks” traditional citation schemata, which may frustrate some people – but we didn’t take this decision lightly, and think it’s for the betterment of our writing to generalize citation across analog and digital platforms. It’s increasingly unreasonable to assume that readers will keep their content in just one form, and we’re well aware of that, and trying to account for that in the best way that is as reverent to the text and the reader’s habits as possible, meeting everyone halfway.

(via Jason Brennan)

book references in the digital age

How do we reference locations in electronic books? Historically, it’s been easy to throw out a page number, and many people were likely to have the same edition as you or at least one with the same page layout. With digital distribution of books coming into stride, that expectation is completely off the table. So, how can we point someone to a specific reference/passage in a book?

The Bible has had this problem covered centuries, but the process also took centuries to come about. Ideally, there would be some standard for breaking up and addressing content within books. Some obvious choices are chapter:paragraph:word or chapter:paragraph:sentence. For it to really be effective though, it needs some level of consistent support within book reading software.

Is Amazon or Apple going to spearhead something like this, or with the advent of search is this a moot point?

they’ve learned their lesson alright

Philip Elmer-DeWitt thinks the Apple education event is getting overhyped, and that they aren’t releasing a “GarageBand for e-books” publishing tool. Here he quotes MacInnis of Inkling:

[Apple has] learned their lesson from upending the music industry.

I don’t know whether the event is being overhyped or not, or whether they are releasing any such authoring tool. But if Apple learned anything from “upending the music industry” it’s not that they should avoid shaking things up. I’m pretty sure upending the music industry was ground zero for Apple’s meteoric return, and their current position among the most profitable tech companies in the world.

i love at&t

It’s perhaps the longest running gag in the mobile phone industry that AT&T drops calls. I haven’t experienced that very much, but then again, I wouldn’t top the charts for voice usage on any list. However, I hear people complain about AT&T’s customer service just as frequently, and that’s when I feel like they’re talking about a different company. After a decade or so of paying my own bills and dozens of hours spent on hold, I have to say AT&T has been one of the best companies in regards to customer service.

I just got off the phone with Lisa. Our call was connected almost instantly after being prompted to dial zero to speak to a customer service representative. After I briefly mentioned an unexpected charge that showed up on my bill, she explained precisely where the charge came from, how she’d help me prevent it in the future, and how she would process a refund for the charge. This wasn’t a one-off experience. AT&T reps seem to always know more about my account than I do. What they say lines up with what I see on my bill, or my account online. I’m repeatedly surprised at how quickly they can respond to issues with my account. And this isn’t short lived either. I’ve been a customer since they were AT&T Wireless, through being purchased by Cingular, and the subsequent acquisition and rebranding under AT&T Inc.

Once, within the first few months of opening my account, they even called to let me know that my bill was due that day, and offered to take my payment over the phone to prevent late charges. Did you read that last sentence? I’m not making this up. I’m not sponsored by AT&T or anything, but I feel like with all the bad press they get, I should let people know that my experience with them has been quite different. Am I alone in my satisfaction?

Now if only I could find a broadband company that doesn’t suck. Cough..COM..Cough..CAST…

mobile provision quicklook plugin

This isn’t flawlessly well-formatted, but this plugin is highly valuable for any Apple developer or tester who’s ever had to futz around with provisioning files. (via @chockenberry)

five years ahead

Five years ago today Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone with the claim that it has “software that’s at least five years ahead of what’s on any other phone.”

Would you rather have the iPhone of 2007 over today’s next best alternative? I think I would.

again with the science

Quantum Levitation strikes again.

@skoda on @technochocolate on