A post by Ben Monkbent about Google’s focus and Android has been getting reposted or linked to quite a bit today. The key paragraph seems to be its conclusion:
For Google, Android was a detour from their focus on owning and dominating web services; it ensured that those services would be freely accessible in this new world of computing, including on the iPhones and iPads that were used liberally in nearly every keynote demo. And, now that Android is successful, Google is back to focusing on “the best of Google.”
There’s then a footnote saying, “this was almost certainly the reason for Andy Rubin’s departure.”
I wonder if this effectively does a lot of what F-script does. This isn’t quite an alternative to Applescript but Apple could potentially add some features regarding exposing functions in a standard dictionary to do a lot with this. The question is whether this will be yet an other bridge ala PyObjC or MacRuby or if it’ll be something more. I guess we’ll possibly find out in a couple of weeks.
I’ve been reading a lot of the summaries of Google IO on Ars and a few other places. I find Google’s evolution quite intriguing. While I think there’s always a danger to judge Google (or Apple) in terms of rumors, I think it fair to try and infer their product strategy from their actions and announcements. First off I think at this stage we have to acknowledge that Android is every bit a competitor to Apple. Not just because of the success of Samsung in selling Android products1 but especially because of the drastically improved UI quality of all of Google’s apps and services. Google Drive as a successor to Google Docs is astoundingly improved, for example. But Google’s apps on iOS are every bit the equal of their Android apps and often are even better.2 Most significantly I think what Google learned was important the past year or so was to focus on UI and practical ease of use. That is Google is now focusing in on experience rather than just features the way engineers thought of features. As many have noted the past year, Google appears to be getting good at UI faster than Apple is getting good at server infrastructure. That ought to worry Apple — although we’ll see if Apple improves in a few weeks at WWDC.
Here are a few thoughts from the announcements at Google IO so far. Note that I’m just going by the announcements. It may be that when these are released as actual products to the public some of my concerns may already be addressed.
- I should note I have a 7″ Samsung Note 2. ↩
Microsoft is looking at buying Nook for an additional $1 Billion. That valuation seems odd to me. But MS can afford it. Is a book store as necessary for mobile as maps is? I don’t know. I understand why Apple did it so they wouldn’t be beholden to Amazon. Not as clear what’s going on here. And will Microsoft fix what’s wrong with the Nook? The Nook’s real problem wasn’t the hardware but the software on everything but their hardware. Had they better desktop and iOS apps I think the Nook would have had a real chance against Amazon. Now it’s going to be pretty hard to compete for a slew of reasons.
Way back in 2004 Wil Shipley left the famous Mac development company Omni to found Delicious Monster. It was a simple app for cataloguing your media and books. What made it unique was a real bookshelf with cover images for all your books. An UI Apple later “borrowed” for iBooks on iOS. This was long before iOS though and ushered in a revolution in Mac software of lots of skeuomorphic applications - often with what some saw as extraneous graphics and animation.1 While it is going far too far to say Delicious introduced skeuomorphism2 it is fair to say it popularized a form of it that remains to this day. In fact that style of app was denigrated by some as the “Delicious Generation.” I think it fair to say that much of the skeuomophism in iOS6 owes a lot to Delicious Monster. Today however skeuomorphism has become the popular whipping boy of Apple fans perhaps a tad too enraptured by the allure of Metro on Win8. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into that debate. I just bring it up because right as skeuomorphism has been under attack Shipley introduced Delicious Library 3 which goes farther in that direction than anything he’s done before. It’s worth contextualizing the app and the inevitable controversy it engenders as I review the app. This is the sort of feature that is purely an aesthetic judgment on your part. I can’t really review it; only describe it.
Given how much care and focus was given to the visual appearance of the app it is surprising that books without a cover on Amazon show up as a black rectangle with a centered book icon in grey. Honestly most of my hardcover books are without the book cover yet have a nice texture with the title and author on them. I’d have thought Delicious Library would give us some pseudo appearance like that. To get rid of that ugly “picture missing” icon you have to find a nice neutral book cover, scan it, and paste it in for every book not in Amazon.
As many have noted recently, Tim Cook promised us “something really great” for “later [this] year.” What on earth could this be? John Siracusa in a popular post a few months ago gave a general wish list for an attitude towards the pro market by Apple. John didn’t really get into what he thought a MacPro might be. I think most people expect it to use the desktop Haswell chips expected to be released this June. Haswell is reportedly going to offer about 15% speed improvement over the previous generation Ivy Bridge. However it’s important to remember that the existing MacPros haven’t really kept up with chip releases — much to the annoyance of many Pro fans. Right now a 27″ iMac with the 3.4GHz i7 is faster than the existing MacPro. I have one of those iMacs and it really does scream. However a new desktop Haswell chip should be much faster still.
The bigger issue is video. While the iMac has a pretty nice graphics card (an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX w 2G memory), video professionals really want even more power. I’m sure many would like a NVIDIA GTX 690 which can be twice as fast as the 680. There’s also the AMD Radeon HD 7990 which just recently was released. I’m not a video or 3D guy, so I really can’t say much here. It’s not too important to me but for many of those who are in those fields one of those two cards in a profession rather than game class form would be highly desirable. I think it safe to say that any new MacPro class machine will have a video card on that class as at least a build to order option. Depending on what you use it for that can lead to graphics speeds two or even three times that of the top end iMac. Also note that some programs, like FCPX or Aperture can offload a lot of processing to the GPU. So fast graphics cards can make a significant improvement in pro software.
One problem I’ve had with podcasts is getting the dang things to sync. I often listen to podcasts when doing non-mentally engaging busy work on the computer. It’s not the sort of thing you could do when programming but if you’re just doing bills it works great. However at the time Apple’s podcast app sucked and didn’t really sync properly. (At least for me) Further you had to use iTunes on OSX for the podcasts. I then tried Instacast but had a few problems with the UI. Further it had no Mac client. (This has changed with a beta out now that reportedly syncs) I ended up sticking with Downcast on iOS. It’s a podcast app I’m really happy with although it’s iCloud syncing is a bit hit or miss. But what to do about OSX?
The solution I arrived at is to get an AirPlay service for OSX. Honestly I’m still a bit flummoxed as to why Apple didn’t build this into Mountain Lion. You’d think they’d support their own services. But then we don’t have iBooks for OSX yet either. After checking around a bit the AirPlay server almost everyone recommended was Reflector. You can download a trial version to check it out. It handles music Airplay mirroring as well as screen/video mirroring. Now when I want to listen to a podcast I just press play on my iPhone and adjust the volume on my Mac. It works great. The only downside is that you can’t control the iPhone via AirPlay. However you can get a program like Type2Phone which lets your Mac act as a bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone. I find getting the pairing to work with Type2Phone is a bit touchy but once you get it working it works great. The alternative is to jailbreak and then use Veency, a VNC client for the iPhone. That’s not quite as good an approach for various reasons. (Not the least being you’ll end up with two copies of the iOS screen)
I’m not usually good with predictions but I hate the people who wait until a week before with predictions after the leaks have already begun. So I’m making these more than a month early. Still I’m pretty confident of some of them.
I’ve meant to comment on Gabe’s list of third party Evernote apps for iOS from a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I’ve been in the middle of a big remodel at my house and then we had a bunch of illness. (Baby had rsv & my wife had to have surprise surgery to remove her gallbladder — all in the midst of construction workers here) Things are finally starting to look a bit more normal now. So I wanted to add in my 2¢.
The app I use most with Evernote and that is on my iPhone’s front page is FastEver. What I love about it is that it’s quick for those little notes you need. For instance when getting materials for my home renovation I often would take some quick measurements and just type it in FastEver as I went. Then at the store I’d bring up the regular Evernote app to look through my measurements.
It may seem like a silly thing. Why not just use the main Evernote app? Well the main Evernote app takes several seconds to start up. That may not seem like a lot, but often you’re in a rush. Then you have to click + and then you have to click in the body to start typing. Yes all small minor delays. But when you just want to enter some data quickly they get annoying.
Those of you who have been following the Apple Maps cycle probably have noticed something. After the disaster that was its first month there was a flurry of activity. Maps improved a lot. Then (at least in the US) after November there’s been nothing. I’ve sent in corrections and have yet to see a single one acted upon.
My suspicion is that Apple is going to release a big update to Maps in June. Rather than comment on what I’d like to see in it1 let me just note the intrinsic problem with all this. Apple is pushing their corporate culture of only doing updates as all in one operating system updates onto their web services. That’s a huge mistake. Apple should be updating these things regularly. And when a new feature is ready they should release it immediately.
Bulk updates have a lot of show power, but the type of updating they were doing in October and November is what they should continue to do.
- Which is pretty straightforward – make rural roads more legible when you’ve zoomed out a long ways and make small city roads more legible at a glance. ↩
I love App.Net. It’s a fantastic service that seems to get better every week. The biggest limit is with Mac clients right now. The best is Kiwi and it’s improved a lot since first being released. However it definitely has weaknesses and flaws so I find myself still running Wedge a lot. along side it. Complaining about Kiwi always makes me uncomfortable because it’s such a small market with a fairly low price. I know what goes into development and it’s really hard to make a cost/benefit argument to a developer regarding ADN right now. Still, for my workflow, there are some annoyances.
The first is selecting posts in Kiwi. I have a ton of scripts I use with Tweetbot to let me do things with posts. I can’t really bring any of those over to Kiwi due to the way selection works and copy and paste works.1 Fortunately I can select a post in Wedge, type ⌘⇧B to copy a web link. I normally then run this through some Python scripts. Here’s one of those scripts that addresses an other weakness in both Kiwi and Wedge: displaying a threaded conversation.
- Let me iterate this is true right now. They may fix this in the future. ↩
I’ve pretty much converted over to Aperture full time for my photo needs. I’ve not quite got my workflow where I want it yet. For instance I still sometimes get Photo Stream and downloading shots from my iPhone ending up in duplicates. I’ve also had some trouble with video too. But by and large everything is working. I’ve been using Duplicate Annihilator for Aperture and it’s worked great. I can easily export stuff to sync with iPhoto on my wife’s computer too. I’ve not mastered the metadata handling quite yet. And I’m still working some scripts to handle images that I don’t really need at full quality. (A lot of iPhone shots are bad enough you could easily cut the resolution but so too are many from my Nikon. I have a little Automator workflow for those)
During the weekend I’d come upon a nice little script to export an iPhoto image into DayOne for ones journal. There are a few limits with DayOne’s images. A single entry can only have one. But you can create multiple entries in a day. The script requires that you install the DayOne CLI tools. Since I’m now an Aperture man, for better or worse, I figured I’d write a script to do the same thing there.1
A small thing, but an important point. Checklists and To-Do lists are different.
There is a neat distinction between a to-do list and checklist. Checklists are a documented process, for something that you do daily, and do to list is something you assembled yourself and you need to do at certain point of your day.
For a long time I used two separate apps for each. Checklists were things like a list I kept for vacations or trips.1 Since then I’ve started using Appigo To-Do’s ability to have separate list categories to simply create a Checklist category.2
All of this is made easier by Appigo letting you make a list by giving a name and then comma separated sub-items. (This works in the iOS app too)
- When you have a bunch of young kids you’re trying to wrangle it’s important to have a checklist you go through. Ditto for work where you have shows or conventions you need to bring things for. ↩
- I have one for Shopping too so I don’t forget regular stuff when it’s my turn to get the groceries. I just put all the regular stuff there so I at least know to check even though I may not necessarily buy. ↩
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