AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Can the Swiss Watchmaker Survive the Digital Age? →

June 03, 2015 |

Great piece by Clive Thompson for The New York Times:

Last fall, however, Koeslag set off on a very different, decidedly 21st-century project: a smartwatch. In response to Apple’s plans to introduce a high-tech watch this year, the chief executive of Frédérique Constant, Peter Stas, decided the company would produce its own. It would not be a minicomputer with a screen, like Apple’s. Instead, it would combine the functions of a Fitbit, a device that tracks physical activity, with a traditional Swiss timepiece, a $1,200 entry-level Frédérique Constant watch. A Silicon Valley company would produce the tiny sensors that count steps and measure sleep cycles, and this information would be transmitted to a phone through a Bluetooth connection. The phone would also control the watch — resetting its hands in different time zones, for example. From the outside, the watch wouldn’t look “smart” at all, but it would be packed with electronics. Koeslag’s job was to bring to life this chimera of Swiss engineering and Silicon Valley wizardry.

Koeslag faced a significant problem, though: He had never worked with chips and sensors before. He didn’t even own a soldering iron. Swiss watchmakers don’t need them; their devices are put together with screws and screwdrivers.

I still don’t think entering the smartwatch market is the way forward for traditional Swiss makers, but what do I know?

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Behind the scenes at Cub and Co →

June 03, 2015 |

Stunning photo-essay by Jorge Quinteros for Tools & Toys:

Cub and Co primarily make leather camera straps. They started like most great ideas do: in someone’s basement. The company was founded by graphic designer and videographer Joel Chavez, who goes by the moniker “Street Cub”. Recently, I met up with Joel, his colleagues, and the amazing crew at Knickerbocker — an American manufacturing company based in New York who collaborate alongside with Joel — and I caught a glimpse of what things look like behind the scenes.

Man, those camera straps look positively gorgeous.

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Marco Arment on audio quality vs compression →

June 03, 2015 |

Marco Arment takes a blind test trying to identify music encoded at three different settings: 128k MP3, 384k MP3, and uncompressed WAV:

NPR’s “hint” to then listen again to the now-labeled uncompressed files, since “it takes time for your ears to adjust”, is, of course, bullshit. If they tell you one is better, you’ll subconsciously believe it’s better. This is why blind tests exist.

I stand by my prior assertion that speakers and headphones matter a lot; amps matter a little; and cables, DACs, higher-than-256k bitrates, and higher-than-44/16 sample rates matter so little that almost nobody can blindly detect differences between them. Allocate your budget accordingly.

Not that it’s surprising, but it looks like there’s plenty of snake oil to go around in the audiophile community.

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Relay FM launches two new shows starring CGP Grey, Merlin Mann and John Siracusa →

June 03, 2015 |

Exciting news from Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett. Personally, I can’t wait to check out Reconcilable Differences:

First up we have Reconcilable Differences, featuring Merlin Mann and John Siracusa. We are thrilled to welcome these two podcasting powerhouses to Relay FM, and we are so happy with how this show is shaping up. On each episode of Reconcilable Differences, you’ll get to hear John and Merlin prod at each other’s backgrounds as fans of technology and pop culture, filling in holes, arguing minor differences, and generally teaching each other about the things they both love.

This is going to be so much fun.

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Do 20mph speed limits actually work? →

June 02, 2015 |

Interesting piece by Hayley Birch for The Guardian:

Implicit in all of this is the idea that 20mph speed limits actually work. To reduce casualties they have to reduce speed, but not everyone agrees that they do. Asked whether he thinks Islington’s 20mph speed limits have made any difference, Aidan Farrow, a member of Islington Cycling Club who cycles thousands of miles on the roads every year, says he doesn’t think so. “My experience is that they’re ignored by many drivers,” he says. “I don’t think they’re enforced and I don’t think that drivers realise they’re there a lot of the time.”

Long story short: 20mph zones would be great for improving safety but in reality, most drivers don’t actually respect the speed limit so they’re pretty much useless.

Madrid is a living example of this problem: over the past year many streets in the city have been fitted with 20mph lanes where cyclists have preference, but the reality is that they’ve done very little to improve the situation. Most drivers simply ignore the 20mph signs completely, using those new lanes as if they were regular lanes. Unless the city is willing to start handing out tickets for these infractions, there’s little hope for meaningful change to occur anytime soon.

Via Taras Grescoe.

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Sepp Blatter to resign as FIFA President in wake of scandal →

June 02, 2015 |

Sam Borden, writing for The New York Times:

In a short speech delivered at the headquarters of FIFA, which oversees global soccer, Mr. Blatter said that “FIFA needs a profound restructuring” and that he had decided to step away from the organization where he had worked in various positions for 40 years. Mr. Blatter, 79, who spoke in French, then referred to his recent re-election by FIFA’s 209 member nations when he said, “Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football.”

No shit.

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The 20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities on the Planet →

June 02, 2015 |

It’s a great day for bicycle fans out there, as the 2015 edition of the Copenhagenize Index, which ranks the top-20 most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, was published today. Mikael Colville-Andersen, CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co., wrote a great feature for Wired analyzing the results and explaining how the ranking system works:

You can read about our full methodology here, but the key to a top spot is clear. You need serious advocacy, bike facilities, social acceptance, and a general perception that cycling is safe. You get extra points for a higher modal percentage—the share of residents who get around by bike as opposed to car or public transit—and for a 50-50 gender split among cyclists.

Of course, infrastructure is key. In Denmark and the Netherlands, a set of rules has evolved over a century. Tried and tested and proven to work, this established best practice is the model for cities everywhere. It includes making protected, one-way bike lanes that aren’t shared by cars, buses, or pedestrians. It means designing streets to limit the number and speed of cars in city centers, making public spaces safe and welcoming for everyone, not just drivers.

This year’s results have been interesting. Focusing on Spain we have Seville, which was ranked an impressive 4th last year but goes down to the 10th position this year, followed in 11th place by Barcelona. These are the only two Spanish cities among the top 20 this year. Clearly, we can — and totally should — do better.

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This week’s Tools & Toys review, by yours truly, touches on a topic near and dear to my heart: the bicycle. In many ways, this article is a love letter to the bicycle as much as it is a review of a bag:

On bicycles, humans become the most efficient animals in the world. Whether you’re going for your daily commute or for a week-long adventure surrounded by nature, the bicycle is a great means of transportation that lets you easily move from point A to point B while staying in touch with your environment. Feeling the spring wind in your face as you pedal your way to your destination is one of the greatest pleasures of riding a bike.

Don’t believe it? You need only watch a kid’s face whenever they ride. That invariable expression of pure, unadulterated joy is a tell-tale sign that the bicycle is something special.

English author H.G. Wells once said: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race”. I couldn’t agree more.

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Matt Gemmell on designing websites to respect the reader →

June 01, 2015 |

Fantastic piece by Matt Gemmell:

I have a list of metrics that I automatically – even subconsciously – use when visiting a web site, to determine whether it’s worth my focus. Am I just a pair of eyeballs, or is this author really speaking to me? Have they given due thought to showing their work in the best light, or just thrown it up there? You can tell a lot about how a site’s author, or owning company, feels about you by how they balance the various tensions of design, content, monetisation, functionality, audience retention, and more.

I often look to Matt’s site for inspiration when I’m considering tweaks in the design for Analog Senses, because I very much share his commitment towards respecting the reader. This piece is an absolute must-read for anyone who writes for the Web.1


  1. Even if you don’t publish your words on your own website, all of the metrics in Matt’s article still apply: by publishing your work on a 3rd-party website or service that doesn’t respect its readers, you are implicitly endorsing that behavior and adopting it as your own.

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