Google makes Photos a standalone product →

May 28, 2015 |

Ron Amadeo, covering Google’s I/O conference for Ars Technica:

At its I/O keynote, Google announced that Google Photos is now a standalone product. The service has officially been spun off from Google+ and is being billed as a brand new product, according to Google’s Anil Sabharwal, and Google hopes the revamp will enable it to better take on the likes of Flickr and Facebook Photos. The new service will be available at

Google Photos looks a lot like Google plus Photos, just without the Google+ part. There is still tons of cloud storage; pictures are still automatically backed up to the cloud, and Auto-Awesome (though it has been renamed to “Assistant”) is still here. That feature still automatically surprises the user by adding funky effects, making panoramas, and creating album slideshows using copies of your pictures.

It looks interesting, no doubt. And in typical Google fashion, the best of all seems to be the pricing:

Google Photos also allows you to backup and store “unlimited, high-quality” photos and videos for free. For images, this means a resolution of up to 16 megapixels (which Sabharwal called “print quality”), and 1080p for videos.

That will have most people covered, but if you’d like to store full resolution images, there is also a $10/month for 1TB plan where Google won’t recompress your files.

I still don’t know if I would trust Google with my entire photo library, but they certainly took a step in the right direction today.

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This is why you shouldn’t call people at work →

May 28, 2015 |

Sofia Quintero:

An unexpected phone call can be a huge distraction, especially if it happens at the wrong time. The act of recovering from an interruption can cost you a big part of your working day. In fact, most of us lose 28 percent (or 2.1 hours a day) of our productivity to constant interruptions and recovery time.

When people call me out of the blue it feels to me like they are saying in their most macabre voice: “I own your time now, my life and my priorities are more important than yours so now proceed and surrender to my communications needs.

This is especially uncomfortable when we are talking about sales calls. In that case is more like this: “Hello, let me interrupt your day now because I really want to sell you something and I am sure you have nothing better to do with your time than talking to me.

Agreed. This is exactly right and it really, really pisses me off. In my eyes, there’s nothing more disrespectful towards your customers than invading their personal space like this.

The good news is, we can fight back. A couple years ago I left my bank after more than a decade with them because they wouldn’t stop calling me during office hours. And more recently I switched Internet providers simply because they wouldn’t stop trying to upsell me to a “better” plan, despite me having told then repeatedly that I wasn’t interested.

Was it a pain to switch? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Hell, yes.

See also: why sometimes I can be an ass.

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Amazon announces new typographic features for Kindle, including much-awaited hyphenation →

May 28, 2015 |

John Brownlee, writing at Fast Company:

But the new app finally gives the boot to the hideous absolute justification of text that the Kindle’s been rocking since 2007. The new layout engine justifies text more like print typesetting. Even if you max out the font size on the new Kindle app, it will keep the spacing between words even, intelligently hyphenating words and spreading them between lines as need may be.

The layout engine also contains some beautiful new kerning options. They’re subtle, but once you see them, you can’t unsee them: for example, the way that the top and bottom of a drop cap on the Kindle now perfectly lines up with the tops and bottoms of its neighboring lines. Like I said, it’s a small detail, but one that even Apple’s iBooks and Google Play Books doesn’t manage to quite get right.

I’ve always hated justification in my Kindle books. This sounds like a great update, but Marco Arment isn’t impressed, so take it with a grain of salt:

Now, hyphenation is being added (which Amazon is doing not by changing the client-side configuration, but by slowly updating their entire catalog of the books themselves to individually enable it, and it won’t apply to all books). Hyphenation is a big improvement for the books that get it, and makes justified text suck less, but it still sucks.

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Chris Gonzales launches ‘Stellar Edits’ →

May 28, 2015 |

Exciting announcement by Chris Gonzales:

This is where I come in. Stellar Edits is a professional editing service I’ve created to help indie creators publish their words with confidence. Everyone has a unique voice, and I want to help you strengthen yours.

Let’s tell your story better.

Every time I’m working on a lengthy piece I wonder how some guys1 are able to publish thousands of edited words per week without any noticeable decrease in quality or polish.

The reason I wonder is because writing is the easy part. It’s where all the fun happens and if you get in the zone, you can easily get through a whole piece in one sitting. The problem is, once you’re done writing you still have a long way to go if you want your piece to be polished and ready for publication. If you aspire to maintain a certain standard for your work, you have to edit.

And guess what? Editing is hard.

It’s hard not only because it’s less fun to do — which it is — but because as the original author, you’re probably not even equipped to edit your own words professionally. Great editing goes way beyond simple grammar-fixing, it’s all about making sure that the message gets through to the audience as clearly as possible and if you’re the one making the mistakes, you’re probably not going to be able to fix them on your own.

A brilliant editor you can trust is probably one of the most — if not the most — valuable assets any writer can have.

I’m really excited about this. Everything we can do to increase the level of polish and professionalism of the written Web is a win in my book, and Chris just scored a big one for the team. I know I would trust him with anything and I’m sure once you try his services, you’ll never look back.

  1. Jason Snell, I’m looking at you.

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John Gruber on Jony Ive’s “promotion” →

May 28, 2015 |

Astute analysis by John, as ever:

I can see Cook-Ive as a sort of titular reversal of the Jobs-Cook C-level leadership duo. Cook oversees operations and “running the company”; Ive oversees everything else. So they created a new title to convey the authority Ive already clearly wielded, and promoted Dye and Howarth, his trusted lieutenants, to free him from administrative drudgery. I could be wrong, and we’ll know after a few years, but that’s my gut feeling today.

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The Apple Watch Review over at Tools & Toys →

May 28, 2015 |

Great review by my friends at Tools & Toys. Bradley Chambers takes us on a journey — literally — over three days of using Apple Watch, and how it impacted many areas of his life and the way he communicated with others:

The magic in Apple Watch lies in what it can’t do. There is no web browser. There is no App Store on the device. It’s providing just enough data to keep you in touch and informed, without being a distraction. If Apple Watch owners are simply more aware of what is going on around them, then the product is a success in my mind. It’s allowing us to have access to great technology, but still live in the real world. I wonder if we will look back at the world where people have their eyes glued to their iPhones as an era where people didn’t know how to control themselves.

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The Desire Lines of Cyclists – The Global Study →

May 27, 2015 |

Great initiative by Copenhagenize Design Co.:

The Desire Lines of Cyclists – The Global Study – is the natural evolution of our original Desire Lines analysis of cyclist behaviour and how cyclists react to urban design called The Choreography of an Urban Intersection. The results of which were unveiled by CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen at Velo-City 2013 in Vienna. This study from Copenhagen in 2012 was based on video-recorded observations of 16,631 cyclists during a 12 hour period. We explored the anthropological details of bicycle users and how they interact with other traffic users and the existing urban design. Three categories of cyclists were identified: Conformists, Momentumists, and Recklists.

Thanks to this study we created a new methodology to analyse urban life: the Desire Line Analysis Tool, which is designed mostly to decode the Desire Lines of cyclists. The main purposes of the analysis is to get a thorough understanding of bicycle users and to rethink intersections to fit modern mobility needs. Like William H. Whyte before us, we want first to observe people. We employ anthropology and sociology directly to urban planning - something we feel is sorely lacking.

They’re expanding their study to other cities around the world, including Cape Town, Paris, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City. Their goal is to assist cities worldwide in developing the right kind of infrastructure for promoting the bicycle as transport.

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Re/code acquired by Vox Media →

May 27, 2015 |

Yesterday, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher announced in a joint statement that Re/code is getting bought by Vox Media:

We are thrilled to announce that Re/code’s parent company, Revere Digital, is being wholly acquired by the highly respected digital-native media company Vox Media. This is the next big step in our mission to bring you quality tech journalism, because our work will now be amplified and enhanced by Vox Media’s deep and broad skill set.

Thrilled, we tell you. This is great news! Call me paranoid, but I don’t like it. And the positive spin they felt they needed to include to avoid awkward comparisons with The Verge doesn’t help:

We plan as well to collaborate where appropriate with Vox Media’s current and very successful tech news site, The Verge. While the two sites occasionally overlap, we have focused on the business of tech, while The Verge has focused on covering tech from a lifestyle perspective.

Riiight. Got it. No conflict at all there. But wait a second, here’s an excerpt from Walt Mossberg’s ethics statement, which is available as a popover window next to his contact information in the article’s header:

I am not an objective news reporter, and am not responsible for business coverage of technology companies. I am a subjective opinion columnist, a reviewer of consumer technology products and a commentator on technology issues. I don’t offer investment advice, or follow the financial progress or stock prices of technology companies. I focus on products and services, not revenues and earnings.

So, let me get this straight. Re/code has “focused on the business of tech”, but Walt Mossberg is “not responsible for business coverage of technology companies”.

How does that work again, exactly?

Seriously. I get that Re/code is bigger than Walt Mossberg, but he is definitely one of the main draws for the audience. I’d be willing to bet that many people, probably even most people, go to Re/code to read his reviews and then stay for the rest. I know because I am one of those people. Which makes all of this rather important. How is his work on the site any different than what The Verge does? Are they seriously expecting us to believe all of a sudden that Re/code is just a business site that just happens to feature one of the most popular and respected product reviewers on the Internet?

Just once, I’d like to see a company being acquired treat their customers — in this case, their readers — with respect, and state upfront that they did it mostly because the money was too good to turn down, and that they have no clue how things are going to work out moving forward but they’re hoping for the best. That wouldn’t be very encouraging, but at least it wouldn’t be an insult to our intelligence, either.

Having said all that, I really do hope things work out well for everyone involved, because Re/code is one of my favorite sites, and I have nothing but admiration for the work they do.

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Is Amazon Prime actually an EcoCrime? →

May 27, 2015 |

Om Malik:

Yesterday I received a package from Amazon Prime. It had two small items inside: a Gorilla Pod , and a pair of eco-friendly water filters for Soma Water Carafe. There was nothing unique about these items—they were puny in size and yet they arrived in a giant box bursting with air-filled packaging material. And I looked at that box with absolute and complete disgust, wondering, Is Amazon Prime actually an EcoCrime? Others on Twitter agreed with that take, which only reaffirmed my guilt for using Prime—for being an unwitting enabler of waste.

He makes a great point. Any packaging excess, even if it’s only for small items, becomes a huge problem when a company ships at the volume Amazon does. That’s why, for years now, Apple has been putting so much thought into reducing packaging for their products as much as possible.1

For what it’s worth though, I haven’t seen the same issue here in Spain with Amazon Premium — our version of Amazon Prime, which is identical except it doesn’t come with Amazon Instant Video. In fact, I have had the exact opposite thought a couple of times when receiving an order from Amazon Spain in the past. They really do use super efficient packaging over here, so I wonder what else is different in how the company operates across different countries.

  1. Well, that and the massive economic savings that come with it: you save on the materials for the packaging, you can ship more devices per plane so you also save fuel, and you save quite a bit of storage space for inventory. So there are plenty of selfish reasons to do the right thing here, apart from environmentalism.

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Josh Ginter goes to Vancouver: Day 2 →

May 27, 2015 |

Josh Ginter and family continue their May Long Weekend trip to Vancouver. Plenty of cool stuff, including a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium and a U2 concert.

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