Defomicron

Software, Hardware, Silverware


The iPod of Prison

Joshua Hunt for The New Yorker:

The pocket analog radio, known by the bland model number SRF-39FP, is a Sony “ultralight” model manufactured for prisons. Its clear housing is meant to prevent inmates from using it to smuggle contraband, and, at under thirty dollars, it is the most affordable Sony radio on the prison market.

Nest Protect Review

Dan Seifert for The Verge:

For the cost of one Protect, I can purchase the three generic smoke detectors my small house requires. Those with larger homes will see an even larger upfront cost. The Nest Thermostat is an easier sell, since it can actually make your home more efficient and save you money over time. But the Protect doesn’t make such promises, and thanks to governments and regulatory testing groups like Underwriter’s Laboratory, can’t promise to make your home any safer than any other smoke detector either.

Still, that doesn’t stop me from wanting one, and wanting the connected home of the future that it promises. If Nest and others have their way, every appliance in our homes will be connected and smarter than ever before. Samsung and LG have been showing off smart washing machines and refrigerators that tweet at every CES for years. Philips and other companies already have lighting systems you can control with your smartphone. But what Nest is doing seems to be the smartest holistic approach to the smart home, even though it just has two products on the market. The home is the next big frontier for today’s connected world — smartphones and wearable technology has already invaded our person, it only makes sense to give our living spaces similar smarts.

The Protect is not a product for today, it’s a product for the future, and if everything goes the way Nest wants it to go, the future is looking pretty bright. I didn’t think much about my smoke detector before, but I do now, and really, that’s the whole point.

I really like what Nest did the Protect, but it makes sense to me that they had to be acquired. Products like this and even their thermostat are luxury items more so even than Apple products, because the other options are so much cheaper and do the job almost exactly as well. That doesn’t stop me from wanting one, though. The best thing that could come out of the Google deal is much lower pricing on the Protect and the thermostat.

Scott Forstall Returns

Gizmodo’s Mario Aguilar:

You thought you’d heard the last of Scott Forstall when he was ousted from his Cupertino corner office a little more than a year ago over the Apple Maps fiasco. But friend of Gizmodo Don Lehman just spotted Mr. Forstall’s rebirth, as unsuspecting model for a student charge card at City College in New York.

The best part is it’s the stock SVP photo from Scott’s days at Apple, ripped directly from the website.

The Road to Geekdom

John Siracusa:

The Mac is actually one of the few things I’m a geek about that I’ve been in on since the start. Geekdom is not defined by historical entry points or even shared experiences. A geek must possess just two things: knowledge and enthusiasm.

The Nest-Google Privacy Statement

Marco Arment analyzes the Nest privacy statement that came out following their sale to Google:

If you’re using Google’s services enough to give them a pretty good idea of where you are and what you’re doing, Nest could automatically turn your heat on so it reaches the ideal temperature at exactly the time you’re most likely to arrive home based on your location, travel speed, the route you usually take, and current traffic conditions. How clever and impressive! It’s even environmentally friendly!

A lot of what Google does or could do with your personal information is really cool and clever and helpful. On the other hand, for every bit of information they collect and put to use for you, they’re putting ten bits to use for them.

“Start with something messy, get to the point, get an editor, and make it good.”

— Michael Lopp

What Will Your Verse Be?

An inspirational new iPad ad that makes me feel bad about myself in the best way. And also makes me want to watch Dead Poets Society again.

The Astonishing Triumph of ‘Her’

M.G. Siegler on Spike Jonze’s Her:

By not feeling the need to dive into the backstory of how Samantha was created, Jonze is able to take back that screentime and use it to further the actual story. Too many films these days feel the need to handhold us through some new future technology — even though we all use technology each and everyday that we don’t fully understand the inner-workings of. And more often than not, these explanations are so laughable that they all-but ruin the intended “wow” factor of the new technology.

I saw it last week. It’s fantastic and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is my favorite movie of 2014.

Pull Your Head Out of Your Ass, Bon Iver

Dan Ozzi for Noisey on Justin Vernon’s imminent retirement:

You get to travel the world, playing massive venues packed to the brim with cute hipster chicks looking to get down on your Bone Iver. And then you play “Skinny Love” and the entire room’s humidity goes up from the audience collectively soaking through their polka dot rompers. If you wanted to, you could easily throw orgies where you are the default stud in a 1000-person fuckfest of Zooey Deschanel look alikes. In fact, you could probably just bang the real Zooey Deschanel if you wanted to. Actually, have you ever banged Zooey Deschanel? She was married to the dude from Death Cab For Cutie and your songs are like, a million times wussier than his!

“If ‘other people have experiences incorrectly’ is annoying to you, think how unbearable it must be to have a condescending stranger tell you they hate the way you’re experiencing your life at just the moment you’ve found something you want to remember.”

— Randall Munroe

Origin of Doge

Kyle Cayka reporting on the origin of the Doge meme1 for The Verge:

The furry face that launched a thousand quips nearly never made it to the web. Sato adopted Kabosu from an animal shelter in November, 2008, saving her from certain death. “She was a pedigreed dog from a puppy mill, and when the puppy mill closed down, she was abandoned along with 19 other Shiba dogs,” the teacher explained. “Some of them were adopted, but the rest of them were killed.”

For those unfamiliar, the Doge meme is the pinnacle of memes. It is what the internet has been moving toward all along. Annalee Newitz called it “a meme of contemplation rather than action”. Such contemplate. Many think. Wow.


  1. For the actual origin, see here↩︎

Smart Watches and Computers On Your Face

Marco Arment on wearables:

But why do we need “smart” watches or face-mounted computers like Google Glass? They have radically different hardware and software needs than smartphones, yet they don’t offer much more utility. They’re also always with you, but not significantly more than smartphones. They come with major costs in fashion and creepiness. They’re yet more devices that need to be bought, learned, maintained, and charged every night. Most fatally, nearly everything they do that has mass appeal and real-world utility can be done by a smartphone well enough or better.

Sounds like you’ve talked yourself out of wanting a smart watch, Marco. You’re right, we don’t “need” one. That’s nice; you don’t have to buy one. Five bucks says you do, when Apple comes out with there’s, on day one.


False Start

I consider myself a casual Apple historian, in that I am a big fan of Apple’s work and through that interest I have learned a fair amount about their past. It is with much interest that I purchased Leander Khaney’s Jony Ive, a biography of Apple’s famed lead designer. A month ago, I linked to an excerpt about the beginnings of the first iPhone. It is quite good and had me excited to read the rest of the book. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly) this was the best portion of the book by far.

I was not turned off by the entire book1. The beginning, which talks about Ive’s education and work before Apple is informative, telling a story I doubt many are familiar with. Khaney’s descriptions of Ive’s early work at Apple were also enjoyable, covering the development of the Newton, the Twentieth Anniversay Mac, and the iMac. Part of me wonders, however, if these sections were more enjoyable only because I am less familiar with those product’s stories already. If I knew more about them, would I have found as many faults with Khaney’s writing as I did with the newer products that I am familiar with?

Jony Ive by Leander Khaney
Jony Ive would not like how this book looks.

The book is entirely effusive about Jony Ive, to the point of being annoying. The hockey puck mouse that shipped with the original iMac is only gently derided, and Ive’s tendency to supplant form over function is likewise given a pass. This gushing attitude hits its high in the final chapter, where credit for the success of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad is seemingly given entirely to Ive:

The iPod was a product of Jony’s simplification philosophy. It could have been just another complex MP3 player, but instead he turned it into the iconic gadget that set the design cues for later mobile devices. Two more delightful innovations, the iPhone and the iPad, were products of thinking differently, of creative engineering at work in rational problem solving on many levels.

Khaney repeatedly gives total credit for these products to Ive, which is ridiculous. Even the subtitle of the book is “The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products”. Not some of Apple’s greatest products, not a genius: he is the genius behind all of Apple’s greatest products. Ridiculous. All of the products Ive has worked on at Apple have been the result of massive team efforts of which Ive was only a single part. In many cases he was pivotal, but he was not the only pivotal person.

Regarding the iPod, Khaney even acknowledges that Ive did not have nearly as much control as with later devices. Khaney says that the idea for it came from Rubinstein (SVP of Hardware) and Fadell (Ruby’s understudy), the scroll wheel interface came from Schiller, and that Ive was only told about the project when they handed him the components of a finished unit and asked him to wrap it up in a pretty case.

The struggle between designer and engineer comes up a lot in the book. During Steve Jobs’s first reign at Apple, particularly in regards to the creation of the original Macintosh, design led engineering. Following Jobs’s departure, engineering took over and designers were forced to build pretty boxes around whatever engineering sent their way. When Jobs returned, things flipped back: designers came up with a product, and the engineers had to meet the constraints of the design. Understanding that, you’ve grasped a majority of what Khaney says about design in Jony Ive. That struggle is brought up so many times throughout the biography that I got irritated while reading whenever Khaney indicated he was about to go off on that tangent again.

Even more frustrating was when Khaney would spout things that were incorrect and/or idiotic. Again from the last chapter we get this nugget:

Before he died, Jobs revealed the degree to which he empowered Jony inside the company. “He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me,” Jobs said. “There’s no one who can tell him what to do, or to butt out. That’s the way I set it up.”

Jobs didn’t explain exactly what he meant. According to Apple’s organization chart, Jony reports to Cook; yet, according to Jobs, Cook can’t tell him what to do.

Khaney, you’ve left out one important detail: Steve Jobs is dead. Tim Cook is CEO, and he can absolutely tell Jony Ive what Jony Ive can and can’t do at Apple. Whether or not it would be wise of Tim Cook constrain Ive is a different question, but the notion that he can’t just because Steve Jobs said so is absurd.

In his chapter on the iPad, Khaney says:

In March 2012, Apple followed up with the third-generation iPad, which added a high-density retina display, a faster chip and better cameras. In October of the same year, the fourth-generation iPad was launched with a much faster processor and cell connection, as well as a tiny lightning connector to replace the original thirty-pin connector…

Two things. First, the third-generation iPad added LTE networking, not the fourth. This is a small mistake, but it’s embarassing. These little details are the easiest to research and get correct, and we’re trusting this man to have done extensive research into a very secretive company. If he can’t get the small, public, obvious facts right how are we supposed to trust the rest of it? Second, that paragraph contains the only mention of the lightning connector, the design of which is an important recent design that, as John Gruber put it, “epitomizes what makes Apple Apple”. Did Ive have nothing to do with it? In this book we’re led to think so.

This biography leaves out a lot that I wanted to know. iOS 7, arguably the most important product Ive has worked on since the first iPhone, is covered only briefly at the very end. It is generally summarized and lauded2 without any detail behind the events besides letting us know that Scott Forstall was actually fired, despite what Apple PR claiming he stepped down. Yeah, we already knew that. I wanted new information, not the same stories I’ve seen in the news for the past year. It’s hard to completely fault Khaney for this since all of it is so recent; it’s difficult to find sources for anything inside Apple, and probably impossible to get any behind-the-scenes accounts from the past year.

We can fault Khaney, however, for spending so much time off the topic of Jony Ive the man. There is much discussion of Steve Jobs, who was very important to Ive but not unfamiliar to anyone reading this biography. In fact, most who read Jony Ive will have read Walter Isaacson’s official biography of Steve Jobs, a text that Khaney cites numerous times. Later, there is far too much discussion on Apple’s stock prices and the post-Steve Jobs era of Apple. I picked up this book because I wanted to learn about Jony Ive and his design process and the stories behind my favorite Ive designs, not to hear someone else predict the future of Apple. In his final paragraph, Khaney actually calls on Jony Ive to reinvent Apple’s design language. Apparently it’s become “predictable”. You know, I was just thinking about how everyone more or less predicted exactly how iOS 7 would look.

All of this, to me, points to the unmistakable fact that this biography is premature. The products that Khaney goes in-depth on are older and less interesting. Ive is far from done and I hope his best work is still ahead of him. At the very least, his best work is his current work, and we won’t learn the stories behind these products for several more years, maybe a decade. Only then could we get a proper biography. You can safely ignore this one.


  1. Actually, the book itself is sort of gross-looking. The line-spacing is too tall and the text is set in an unappealing serif (the apostrophes and quotation marks are particularly unsettling) with headings in Avenir Next. Sans-serifs should never be used in printed books. In the case of Jony Ive, the use of the sans-serif combined with weird gray lozenges and pullquotes at the beginning of each chapter (see here) give the impression that this book belongs in an elementary school classroom. It’s an odd, almost intangible effect but I was not the only one who noticed it. I somehow doubt Jony Ive would be happy with his biography looking like this. ↩︎

  2. Khaney spends one paragraph noting iOS 7’s dedication to typography through the use of Helvetica Neue. He does not specify Helvetica Neue Light, and his writing indicates that he has no idea Helvetica Neue has been the system font on iOS since it went retina↩︎


Bigger Than Picasso

Corey S. Powell and Laurie Gwen Shapiro tell the story of the only extra-terrestrial art exhibit in the known world, “Fallen Astronaut” located on the Moon:

One crisp March morning in 1969, artist Paul van Hoeydonck was visiting his Manhattan gallery when he stumbled into the middle of a startling conversation. Louise Tolliver Deutschman, the gallery’s director, was making an energetic pitch to Dick Waddell, the owner. “Why don’t we put a sculpture of Paul’s on the moon,” she insisted. Before Waddell could reply, van Hoeydonck inserted himself into the exchange: “Are you completely nuts? How would we even do it?”

Why The Pull-To-Refresh Gesture Must Die

Did you notice Instagram has pull-to-refresh now? Probably not. Here’s Austin Carr on Instagram’s change and the gesture in general, for Fast Company:

In earlier versions of Instagram, the app featured a button that allowed users to refresh the images displayed in their feeds. Now, the button is gone—replaced by an Instagram Direct inbox icon—and the Instagram team moved to the pull-to-refresh paradigm. “We introduced pull-to-refresh, so now when you pull on your feed, it just refreshes,” Systrom says. “[But] I’d like [to get to] a day when you didn’t have a refresh button—where it just updates [automatically].”

I agree, 100%. Getting rid of refresh controls all together is one of those weird, intangibly uncomfortable ideas (at least to me). But it’s also necessary. Our phones are powerful enough and efficient enough now to do this. And if you think that argument’s crazy, here’s Loren Brichter, creator of pull-to-refresh, quoted in the very same article:

Brichter, however, feels that it’s high time his gesture evolves. “The fact that people still call it ‘pull-to-refresh’ bothers me—using it just for refreshing is limiting and makes it obsolete,” he says. “I like the idea of ‘pull-to-do-action.’”

It’s a testament to his genius that he realizes it is time we moved on.

Harry Potter Coming to the Stage

J.K. Rowling:

Over the years I have received countless approaches about turning Harry Potter into a theatrical production, but Sonia and Colin’s vision was the only one that really made sense to me, and which had the sensitivity, intensity and intimacy I thought appropriate for bringing Harry’s story to the stage.  After a year in gestation it is exciting to see this project moving on to the next phase.


The Meaning of Life, Part I

The Importance of Doubt

We believe certain things. We believe in knowledge. We believe in importance. We believe what we do in this world matters and we believe that other people are important and what they do matters, too. We accept these intangibles because if we do not there is nothing else.


Few of us ask questions beyond the superficial. Those who do we call “philosophers” and we revere them (though often not until long after they have parted us). While anyone can question, philosophers possess one special skill that enables them to think more critically: the acceptance of doubt. Most fear doubt; fear of doubt is ruin.

Most bloody wars in history have had at the root of their cause religion. Religion is bred from doubt; it is born out of fear of the unknown. Over the thousands of years of human intelligence, the fear of the unknown has forced the creation of myths to explain away what we cannot any other way. Those who fear the unknown fear death. It is impossible to know what if anything happens after death, so religions have manufactured promises of life surviving the destruction of the earthly body. No lasting culture on earth has ever accepted that when humans die, all the evidence says nothing happens. Heaven and hell are notions created and written down by living humans with the same knowledge you or I have of the after-life: none. Through repetition, they are concepts that most of the world accepts blindly.

The modern philosopher Thomas Nagel says in What Does It All Mean? that we cannot be absolutely sure of anything: “If you think about it, the inside of your mind is the only thing you can be absolutely sure of.” How can we be sure anything is real? What is “real”, anyway? How do we know that everything going on around us, the entire world and every one in it, isn’t all in our head? These questions have no answer. There is nothing we can be sure of; certainty does not exist; that’s terrifying. Perhaps nothing I have ever done, do, or will do matters.

Ultimately, the search for certainty is useless. You can idle for your entire life and make nothing of your perceived time on this planet and no one will be able to convince you that you are apart of anything worth wasting. Certainty is impossible, so to move on to more important matters we must accept doubt in the way of things and renounce this blind faith in unreferenced answers. There is only one thing worth convincing ourselves of: that what we do here on earth is the only thing we know; if anything matters, it is this.

Immortality in a Mortal World

As humans we are struck with this concept that life is somehow important. There is little evidence for that. The universe has existed for 14,000,000,000 years and humans have inhabited the Earth for fewer than 0.0002% of them. The idea that anything any one of us has ever done has had even the slightest impact on anything further away than our Moon is laughable. The dinosaur dynasty lasted for over 135,000,000 years but what have they left behind? Fossils? Birds? Virtually nothing. Their only legacy is the oil we use to power our cars that in turn pollutes the Earth’s atmosphere. Not much to aspire to. Even if we do manage another 134,800,000 years, are we destined to be but a casual mystery to whatever species usurps us? It is a disconcerting reality that as we learn more of the universe, our own existence feels increasingly insignificant. But that belief, that life is important… It does not fade.


We remember past figures for their accomplishments. King Narmer, Otto von Bismarck, Abraham Lincoln: we remember these people because they marked history. It is reasonable then to assume that if we do important things and change the world, we will be remembered also. Steve Jobs once said of death:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.

Immortality through reverence and remembrance is a real, observable phenomenon and the only meaning we can assure ourselves we can achieve.

Sit idle if you want and I cannot say for sure you’re wasting anything. But I will narrow the scope of my universe; to a human being that will live about 80 years, 200,000 of them feels like a pretty long time. I will never possess the ability to affect the universe as a whole, but I can surely affect the other humans here with me. I will ignore reality; I will muddle the facts because if I do not, I am nothing. “There’s no point,” wrote Nagel. “It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t exist at all, or if I didn’t care about anything. But I do. That’s all there is to it.”

Enjoy the Little Things

“Is Fortune’s presence dear to thee if she cannot be trusted to stay, and though she will bring sorrow when she is gone?”
— Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy


Fortune, good or bad, is transient. And that being the case, is there any point to finding Fortune’s good graces? The impression from Boethius is no. “True happiness” is fulfillment. It is found through wisdom and knowledge which cannot (at least, cannot easily) be taken away, as Fortune can. Fulfillment gives one importance and reverence in life, which can make one eternal. I am enrolled in the most prestigious and expensive university I was accepted to because I know a college education is an important step toward fulfillment. I come from a lower-middle-class family with little extra money to spend on college, and I did not impress enough in high school to get anything better than a partial scholarship. I cannot afford to be here. I am scheduled to pay off this semester with considerable interest by 2042. Yet here I am. I should be on the right track. But I am not happy.

Every week I have a “bad” day: a day when it gets to me the extent to which I am in-over-my-head. I have long imagined a Wall, a barrier to success brought on by my ability to meet the A-grade expectation in high school without putting forth any effort. I am not totally devoid of drive, but certainly I lack it in the worst way wherever I lack interest. At some point I think I will be put in a situation where I cannot meet expectations without putting forth the effort I have witnessed peers pour into schoolwork in the past. When I finally am, I worry that I will simply fail. The Wall is one of my greatest anxieties, third only to equity and loneliness.

Will I be able to feed myself next week? What about over the holidays when the dining halls are closed? As much as I would love to say that money is not important, and that we can be happy without it, in truth I know that there is a certain level of wealth that is paramount to being happy. No one is content in poverty. I do not long for riches, but I long for Enough. Until I can take a friend out for a nice lunch spur-of-the-moment and foot the bill without concern, I do not have Enough.

I have struggled with friendship since sophomore-level high school. While I have consistently had one or two best friends, I have struggled with finding groups of friends large enough that I can associate with people that I like on a daily basis. I have always been particular in choosing friends, which has helped me to achieve a small group that I can already assert as life-long. But my particularity has run to by greatest fear: that of being Alone. Whether I am in my dorm room with only my laptop or in a coffee shop with strangers, if I am not with people I can joke around with, I am Alone. My “bad” days consistently line up with those that I spend a majority of Alone.

These anxieties: hitting the Wall, having Enough, being Alone, they each eat at me every day despite my adherence to the path toward fulfillment. Because of this I stress the importance of Fortune. Life is a mix of good and bad; the good does not make up for the bad but likewise the bad does not spoil the good. Despite its transience, good Fortune is important to a happy life because fulfillment takes a very long time. Along the way there are many toils and without little, fleeting, happy moments I could not cope. This is why I treated my friends to a Broadway show I could not afford, it is why I joined the quidditch team, and it is why I spend so much of my money on first dates.


The First Trailer for Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

Christopher Nolan’s next film, Interstellar, isn’t due out for another year but the first trailer is here and it looks great. Yes, yes, yes! to more space movies.

Redesigning Rands in Repose

Alex King talks about his collaboration with Michael Lopp on the recent Rands in Repose redesign:

Borrowing from “the best camera is the one you have with you”, we wanted to make sure that the best device for reading Rands in Repose was the one you had with you.

Earth and Moon

It’s 2013, and we’ve finally captured a video of the Moon’s rotation around the Earth (courtesy of the Juno spacecraft).

How Apple’s Lightning-Plug Guru Reinvented Square’s Card Reader

Kyle Vanhemert interviewed Jesse Dorogusker, formerly of Apple and now the head industrial designer at Square, for Wired:

It’s a small detail, but on such a simple device, shrinking that gap between the two parts of the enclosure has a significant effect. It makes the device seem more substantial, more considered, and generally higher quality. And yet, even after months of toiling on custom components to make the new Reader the most elegant credit card processing device in existence, Dorogusker still sees the product through the eyes of a Cupertino-bred perfectionist. He holds the new Reader between his fingers, pausing for a moment while he considers his creation. “I’d love to get rid of that seam.”

Never stop going forward.

Teeterboard Training

Teeter-totters aren’t just for kids.

Let It Full-Bleed

MG Siegler:

Load up your favorite tech blog. Or almost any blog, really. There’s a good chance it looks like shit. There’s a better chance that the reading experience is even worse. And we put up with it, day in and day out.

He published this article on Medium and on TechCrunch; guess which one looks nicer and is easier to read. Readability has always been a driving goal behind Defomicron’s design. While I like owning my own writing platform, if I didn’t have the skill set to build something on-par with Medium’s reading experience, I think I’d just as soon publish there.

The Worst Song of This or Any Other Year

Rob Sheffield for Rolling Stone:

Note: I have zero interest in persuading you to agree with me. If you enjoy “Blurred Lines,” I wouldn’t dream of changing your mind. But I’m still amazed, after all these months of airplay, at my immature and irrational loathing for this song. Understand, it’s not simply a reasoned critical perspective, pointing out the obvious flaws in craft and tone. It’s more like: I want to hurt this song. I want to wound it emotionally. I would fantasize about punching this song in the nose, if songs had noses. I want this song to cry.

“Blurred Lines” is nominated for two Grammies.

Oh, and this:

Nothing in 2013 sucked like “Blurred Lines.” And this was the year we got a Leonardo DiCaprio remake of The Great Gatsby. Everything next year will just have to suck a little harder.

Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013

Smart list.

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon:

We’re excited to share Prime Air — something the team has been working on in our next generation R&D lab.

The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations.

This feels too futuristic. It feels like an April Fools prank four months early. They say 2015, but it doesn’t feel like it’ll ever actually happen.

Tweetbot 3.2 Brings Night Theme

It’s the best implementation of “night” mode ever — more like “dark” mode. It adjusts based on your phone’s brightness, so if it’s night time but you’re in a bright room you’ll still get light mode. Vice versa, if it’s morning but you’re hiding under the covers, you’ll get dark mode. There’s a slider in Tweetbot’s setting that let’s you adjust at what brightness level it flips, and it took a little bit of playing with it to get it just right (I’m mystified by their default location of directly in the middle), but once I did it is completely set-and-forget. I wish I could do something similar for Defomicron’s dark mode.

Anthropomorphized OS Mascots

The Macalope’s Thanksgiving column.

The Birth of the iPhone

An excerpt from Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney:

Jony in particular had always had a deep appreciation for the tactile nature of computing; he had put handles on several of his early machines specifically to encourage touching. But here was an opportunity to make the ultimate tactile device. No more keyboard, mouse, pen, or even a click wheel—the user would touch the actual interface with his or her fingers. What could be more intimate?

Whose Fish?

Celebrate Thanksgiving with a little brain puzzlery:

This brainteaser, reportedly written by Einstein is difficult and Einstein said that 98% of the people in the world could not figure it out. Which percentage are you in?

There are five houses in a row in different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The five owners drink a different drink, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet, one of which is a Walleye Pike.

Not to brag, but I solved it pretty quickly. I’d say 10-20 minutes but I didn’t think to time myself.

The Desert Boot

Jake Gallagher for GQ:

The year was 1941, and the soldier, well he wasn’t just any infantryman, he was Nathan Clark, and he’d been sent to war with two missions. First and foremost to protect his country, and, secondly, to discover some new shoe designs for his family’s company. As a member of the Eighth Army, Clark had been deployed to Burma, and it was here that he noticed that the officers in his formation were wearing these strange, sand colored chukkas during their downtime. Clark investigated the shoes and learned that they had originally been commissioned to Cairo cobblers by South African soldiers whose old-military issue boots had failed them out on the desert terrain. They wanted something that was both lightweight and grippy which led to creation of a boot with a suede upper on a crepe sole.

The Joy of Technology

Linus Edwards remembering his first computer:

I remember taking it home and feeling like it was Christmas morning. I brought it down into our basement and started figuring out how to hook it up to our old TV. There was no instructions, but after numerous trial and error, I got it working. The TV started blaring out computerized beeps and the screen flickered with monochromic menus. It had a simple baseball game that I played with for awhile, and some other random discs with various software. Looking back, it shouldn’t have been that exciting, and I didn’t get much use out of the thing. Yet, I was fascinated with the fact I could take this old box of electronics, figure out how it worked, and make it do things.

1,000 Handwritten Contacts

James Legge for The Independent:

According to the AFP news agency, he said he sent a text message to the thief, saying: “I know you are the man who sat beside me. I can assure you that I will find you.

“Look through the contact numbers in my mobile and you will know what trade I am in,” a reference to the Chinese pub trade, which is widely held to have links with gangs.

“Send me back the phone to the address below if you are sensible,” it concluded.

New life goal: become someone who can write that note.

The New Glif

Studio Neat has a new Glif that’s adjustable. They made a video with Adam Lisagor and it is inspired by Wes Andersona and it is beautiful.

Motherfucking Website

Unfortunately no German ever said that, ever.

“Like a Rolling Stone” Official Video

48 years after its debut, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” (Rolling Stone’s #1 song of all time) has an official video. It’s interactive and (sadly) Flash-based — best viewed in a desktop browser.

Inside the Apple Store

J.K. Appleseed (an anonymous former Apple employee) recounts the best stories he heard while working Apple retail.

Smartphones as the Hub of Our Digital Lifestyles

Tim Bajarin:

…in many ways the smartphone itself is becoming a very important hub in its own right.

If you have one of the current wearable health monitors you are already using it as an important hub in your own lifestyle. In my case my preferred wearable is the Nike FuelBand. I wear it 24 hours a day and it records my steps, gives me the amount of calories I burn and as designed, it pushes me to move more throughout my day.

Viola Organista

Robert Sorokanich for Gizmodo:

From the audience, this instrument looks like a typical grand piano. Then the maestro takes his seat and begins to play. It’s a sound nobody has heard before, because this instrument, designed by Leonardo Da Vinci five centuries ago, has just been built for the very first time. And it sounds heavenly.

The viola organista was invented by da Vinci with characteristics of a harpsichord, an organ and a cello. In the place of a piano’s felt hammers, spinning wheels draw across the strings like a violinist’s bow. The player operates a foot pedal to spin the wheels, playing notes on a keyboard identical to a piano’s. But the sound, sinewy like a stringed instrument but with a piano’s direct, well-defined tones, defies comparison to traditional instruments.

Switch from iPhone to Android in 24 Easy Steps

Eric Schmidt wrote a guide to help all those poor iPhone users who want to switch to Android but can’t figure out how:

Many of my iPhone friends are converting to Android. The latest high-end phones from Samsung (Galaxy S4), Motorola (Verizon Droid Ultra) and the Nexus 5 (for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) have better screens, are faster, and have a much more intuitive interface. They are a great Christmas present to an iPhone user!

Here are the steps I recommend to make this switch. Like the people who moved from PCs to Macs and never switched back, you will switch from iPhone to Android and never switch back as everything will be in the cloud, backed up, and there are so many choices for you. 80% of the world, in the latest surveys, agrees on Android.

Eric is excellent writer. My favorite:

At this point, you should see all your Gmail, and be able to use any apps and they should work well. Be sure to verify this.

He might be a third grader; we aren’t sure.

Editorially

Shawn Blanc has a good overview of how he’s using Editorially to manage publishing to his new site, The Sweet Setup:

Leading up to the launch of The Sweet Setup, we were wrangling about 20 active documents. I was working with half-a-dozen different authors on their app reviews along with writing several reviews and blog posts of my own, and Jeff Abbott was editing everything.

To manage all of these documents we use Editorially.

It’s awesome. Here’s why.

We’ve started to integrate Editorially into the Defomicron publishing workflow, and so far we’re very impressed. It does more or less what you’d like and expect it to do. My only wish is that it was somehow built into the WordPress backend.

Daniel Weil Redesigns the Chess Set

Angus Montgomery for Design Week:

Carrying through the Classical theme, Weil linked the eight major chess pieces to the eight columns of the façade of the Parthanon. He redrew the height of the pieces to reflect the pitch of the façade, so that the pieces before play would evoke the structure of a Classical building.

Leaving Google Chrome

Federico Viticci:

I considered switching to Safari because I was fed up with Google’s creepiness, and I ended up actually liking Safari more than Chrome overall.

Safari 7 on OS X and iOS is the best, most solid build of Apple’s browser ever.

(Also, I like this feature suggestion:

iCloud sync in Safari is nice, but browser history should sync as well. Too many times I find myself typing a website’s address, thinking that Safari will pull its full URL from my history on the Mac, only to remember that history doesn’t sync. It’s no deal-breaker – especially with iCloud Tabs – but it’s an enhancement I’d like to see.

I await Safari 8.)

Apple Brings the Apple Store App to iPad

A few interesting notes about this:

“Think You’re Being Funny, Do You?”

A little boy dressed up as Harry Potter and wandered around Penn Station asking strangers for directions to platform 9¾. This kid’s parents are wonderful people. (For other great parents, see “Dinovember”.)

Hands-On With The Moga Ace Power

Eli Hodapp reviewed the Moga Ace Power, the first game controller to hit the market for iOS 7 devices, for Touch Arcade:

There’s also an odd divide between games that can use controllers and the platform they were originally designed for. Oceanhorn], for instance, uses the controller but it seems like a vast majority of the game is played just using a single button and analog stick, leaving the rest of the controller feeling weirdly unnecessary, especially when Oceanhorn is a game that worked so well on the touchscreen anyway. Games like Bastion that were originally built for controllers, however, are amazing when played with the MOGA Ace Power. All the clunkiness of the virtual controls fades away and you’re actually having fun instead of being frustrated that your right thumb migrated off a virtual button. Tactile feedback means so much in games like Bastion that it’s hard to go back playing it “normally” once I took my phone out of the MOGA Ace Power.

Eli is clear that this controller can’t compare to PlayStation or Xbox controllers, but it is an important first step. This, also, is important:

…it eats up the Lightning port, and while this might not seem like that big of a deal initially, it kills the potential for using your iOS device as a game controller on a TV. The latency introduced through AirPlay is substantial, and I can’t imagine anyone playing a game on their TV via AirPlay using a controller for anything past the initial “Huh, well that’s neat,” sensation. It’s “playable,” in massive air quotes, but isn’t a great experience by any means.

A game store can’t come to the Apple TV soon enough.

NYU Takes Fourth in Northeast Regional Quidditch Championship

Slight break from the what I normally post about, but I’m ridiculously proud of my team. With a clutch and unpredicted victory against Boston Massacre, the NYU quidditch team took fourth place in the Northeast Regional Championship yesterday. We are the #1 team in New York City, #2 in New York state, and #4 in the northeastern United States.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Ikea

“Life in Ikea is impossible.”

Dammit, now I want to see Gravity again.

Trailer for Noah

I guess if you’re going to make a movie about a Bible story, you go with the most ridiculous one. (Fun fact: ancient Mesopotamians were white and also British.)

One World Trade Center Ruled the Tallest Building in the US

Dante D’Orazio for The Verge (emphasis mine):

The decision makes the official height of the building 1,776 feet, not 1,368 feet, which is the height of the building’s roof. It also allows One World Trade to beat out Chicago’s Willis Tower as the tallest in the US. Willis Tower’s antenna does not count towards its official “architectural height”.

Because because. Hush.

iBooks and iTunes U Updated With iOS 7 Redesigns

Fin- Wait, yeah. Finally. What the hell took so long.

(My favorite part is that the release note for iBooks: “iBooks has been updated with a beautiful new design for iOS 7.” is so different from the note for iTunes U: “This version of iTunes U has been updated for iOS 7 with an all-new look and feel.” You’d be forgiven for thinking these updates came from different companies.)

Desk or Garage Design

Michael Lopp on Keynote 6’s redesign:

I’m wondering about their definition of simple. There’s the simplification where you clean your desk. The clutter on your desk is bugging you, so you decide to clean it up. This small act of simplification gives you the pleasant illusion that the world contains less chaos and you can suddenly magically focus on the task that you were procrastinating on while you were cleaning your desk.

The other version of simplification is harder. This is the simplification where you spend the weekend rearranging your garage. This process still involves tidying, but its primarily goal is to answer the question: “How am I going to get work done more efficiently?” You look at all your tools, you remember recent projects and what was hard and what was easy, and using these thoughts you embark on a weekend-long quest of simplification where the goal is improved efficiency.

‘Princess Bride’ Stage Show in the Works

David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter:

Disney Theatrical Productions has announced plans to collaborate with William Goldman on a stage work based on his 1973 fairy tale, The Princess Bride, and on his screenplay for the beloved 1987 Rob Reiner film that became a cult classic.

The deal was shepherded by Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, who was involved with the screen version during his tenure at Castle Rock. No timeline or creative team for the show has been announced. Nor has it been decided if the project will be a musical or a play, though given the Disney stage arm’s predominant history with musicals, that seems a good bet.

Yes yes yes.

The Largest Mass Grave Site in the U.S.

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, writing for Gizmodo, on Hart Island:

Its most important role has been to serve as what’s known as a potter’s field, a common gravesite for the city’s unknown dead. Some 900,000 New Yorkers (or adopted New Yorkers) are buried here; hauntingly, the majority are interred by prisoners from Riker’s Island who earn 50 cents an hour digging gravesites and stacking simple wooden boxes in groups of 150 adults and 1,000 infants. These inmates—most of them very young, serving out short sentences—are responsible for building the only memorials on Hart Island: Handmade crosses made of twigs and small offerings of fruit and candy left behind when a grave is finished.

Amazing in Motion

This new Lexus ad features an army of drones in a close synchronized dance. All of them are actual drones captured on video.

With Great Joy

Rands in Repose has moved to WordPress and launched its fifth redesign. My favorite part of the old Rands was the depth of content. There was always more to discover if you were interested, and that fact has definitely served as inspiration for Defomicron. The new design is much more modern, cleaner, and adds to that depth with a great “Sandbox” footer with Instagrams and tweets. I’m sad to see the old design go, but I love the new one.

Skydivers’ Terrifying Collision

Two aircraft carrying 11 combined souls collided in mid-air; one plane broke apart in mid-air; 10 parachuted to safety while the last landed the second plane safely on the ground. It’s a miraculous story, and it was caught on video. It’s a horrifying image that looks straight out of Iron Man 3.

Knock to Unlock

Unlock your Mac by knocking twice on your iPhone. I bought this immediately after reading about it, and it’s awesome. Works great and fast (for me, though one friend does report it can be slow for him when his MacBook’s been closed for a bit). I wish it supported multiple Macs at once, though Knock says this is coming soon.

The End of the Waffle House

A surprisingly heart-wrenching story about the death of a Waffle House, by Jessica Contrera for the Indiana Daily Student:

Bud — everyone called him Bud — checked on the dwindling supply of breakfast sausage, peered into the nearly empty freezers, tried to explain to his regulars why it had to be this way.

“It’s time,” he said over and over.

At 79, Bud was tired. Except for Christmas, the restaurant was always open, day and night. Now a developer wanted to replace it with another apartment building for college kids. The offer was too good to pass up.

Riding Lawnmower Speed Records

Randall Munroe, from his latest What If?:

In 2010, Bobby Cleveland set a world record for the top speed in a riding lawnmower, hitting 96 mph. This record was set as part of a rivalry with the British lawnmower driver Don Wales.

“Really.”