Dan Moren on Amazon Echo →

May 08, 2015 |

Dan Moren, writing at Six Colors:

First and foremost is the idea of a computer interface that’s all around you at all times. This is Star Trek level stuff. Apple’s made a similar attempt with the “Hey Siri” feature of iOS 8, but given that it only works when your device is plugged in, I find I don’t really think about using it. The Echo is always plugged in, which means you don’t have to think about it at all. Asking Alexa for things has become second nature to me in a way that casting about for my iOS device to trigger Siri—or even using my Apple Watch—hasn’t.

The Echo’s hardware deserves a full share of that credit. The microphones on this device are impressive; even when I’m several rooms away, Alexa rarely mishears me. I’ve triggered it from my kitchen and from my hallway, the latter of which doesn’t even have line of sight to the Echo. And it’s not like I’m yelling at the computerized assistant either; I simply spoke in a conversational tone. Amazon’s spent a while tuning the “far-field voice recognition,” which uses seven mics and “beam-forming technology” to extend its range. And as much as that jargon makes me roll my eyes, you can’t argue with the fact that it works, and it works damned well. By contrast, I sometimes can’t get “Hey Siri” to trigger on my Apple Watch, even though it’s inches away from my mouth.

All big players in the tech industry are trying to crack the idea of an intelligent digital assistant: Apple with Siri, Microsoft with Cortana, Google with Google Now and now Amazon with Alexa. There’s no doubt these companies are competing at the bleeding edge of technology.

Judging from what we’ve seen so far, it appears that getting the computer to hear you only when you want, and every time that you want is one of the most difficult things to get right, and Amazon seems to be doing an excellent job in that area.

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MirrorLessons reviews the Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens →

May 08, 2015 |

One of the best Micro Four Thirds lenses around gets the MirrorLessons treatment:

To love this lens, you have to love manual focus. From the solid metallic build to thoughtful details such as the de-clicking aperture ring and large, smooth focus ring, this lens is every manual focus lover’s dream.

The absence of electronic components also means that the lens is very precise. It is wonderful to use with either the E-M1’s focus peaking or magnification function, and can focus very close (15 cm) for a near-macro effect.

Street photographers will be glad to know that the lens also features a handy depth of field scale for zone focusing. All the apertures and distances are very clearly marked.

Like I needed any more reasons to crave this lens.

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Minimal Mac says goodbye →

May 06, 2015 |

Patrick Rhone:

This is the final post on Minimal Mac. This project contains what I believe in when it comes to a mindful and intentional approach to technology. After nearly 2,500 posts, I have nothing more to add to what has already been said. As I wrote in my book enough, saying no is actually saying yes to other things. It’s time to say “no” to this project so that I can say “yes” to others (or, in some cases, fully commit to agreements already made).

For those who have read and enjoyed this site at any time over the nearly six year span, I thank you and hope it has truly helped you in a meaningful way.

It’s impossible to overstate how important Patrick’s work on Minimal Mac has been to me, personally. It is no exaggeration to say that without Minimal Mac, Analog Senses would not exist as we know it today.

Patrick’s work played a huge part in the decision to start my own website back in 2009 — when we still used the word weblog — and he’s been a constant source of guidance and inspiration ever since. Today, I am proud to call him my friend, and I wish him nothing but the very best for what’s coming. If there’s one guy who deserves it, it’s him.

You did great Patrick, and your work will endure. You can move on without regret. Thanks for everything, and see you on the road.


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A primer on fountain pens →

May 06, 2015 |

Lovely article over at The Art of Manliness:

Despite the introduction of the ballpoint pen in the early 1900s, fountain pens maintained their dominance as the go-to writing instrument up until the mid-point of the century. It was not until the 1960s, when the ballpoint pen’s reliability increased, and its price decreased, that fountain pen sales began their long and steady decline in the United States. While they’re still widely used by students in private schools in England and the rest of Europe, in America the fountain pen is largely seen as more of a collector’s item, a status symbol, or the focus of a twee hobby. However, thanks to the internet’s ability to connect enthusiasts, the fountain pen has seen something of a resurgence in the U.S. Today you can find countless forums and blogs dedicated to the virtues of this classic writing instrument.

If you enjoy the world of pens and would like to know more about it, there are plenty of great websites on the subject. Besides the ones mentioned towards the end of this article, I strongly recommend Brad Dowdy’s excellent site, The Pen Addict, as well as its accompanying podcast on Relay FM.

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Federico Viticci’s wishlist for iOS 9 →

May 06, 2015 |

Federico Viticci:

As with every year, I’ve been pondering where I’d like to see iOS go next. Software is never done, but iOS 8 made a compelling argument for the maturity of the platform – if anything, from a feature checklist perspective. That’s not how I look at it, though: I suspect that the next major version of iOS – likely to be called iOS 9 – will use the visual and technical foundation of iOS 7 and iOS 8 to unlock new levels of integration and communication between apps, iCloud, gestures, and voice input.

Nice and comprehensive list from Federico, as ever. I don’t think there’s anybody out there with a better appreciation for the iOS platform — including its strengths and weaknesses — than him. If only a few of his wishes end up coming true, I will be a very happy man.

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Making espresso on the International Space Station →

May 05, 2015 |

Dr. Mark Weislogel tells the fascinating story of how Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first person to brew — and drink — a cup of espresso on the International Space Station thanks to the newly invented “Space Cup”:

You can imagine how many variables are at play for the drinking experience from a human factors perspective, but gravity influences many of these, too. Sinus drainage, saliva migration, time aloft, and others are reasonable microgravity-related parameters affecting one’s response to the drinking experience in space. We designed the Space Cup with the central objective of delivering the liquid passively to the lip of the cup. To do this we exploit surface tension, wetting conditions, and the special geometry of the cup itself. We have yet to learn the human-cup interaction in microgravity. The cup design forces the drinker’s nose directly over the fluid contents. But since the aromatics do not rise, one might expect a rather concentrated dose upon the first whiff. Maybe this won’t be a big deal since astronauts report a reduced sense of smell while in space, due to somewhat clogged sinuses. This is presumably due to the headward fluid redistribution that occurs in spaceflight.

The lengths some people will go to to get their morning cup of Joe.1

  1. Federico, I’m looking at you.

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Bryan Singer announces new ‘Rogue Cut’ of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ →

May 05, 2015 |

Bryan Singer took to Periscope today to announce a new alternate cut of X-Men: Days of Future Past, to be released on July 17. The new cut is 17 minutes longer and was dubbed ‘The Rogue Cut’, because it includes several additional scenes involving the Rogue character, played by Anna Paquin.

I actually think this new cut could be an improvement over the theatrical version of the film. For some reason, when I watched the original cut at the theater it kind of felt as though some scenes were missing, almost as if they’d been cut in order to keep the theatrical version from running too long.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the new scenes are, and how they impact the overall plot but really, just about any excuse to get more of Fassbender as Magneto will do.

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The best bike story of the week →

May 05, 2015 |

Mikael Colville-Andersen recovers his Bullitt cargo bike, which was stolen back in March in Copenhagen:

So it turns out Danni was out for a ride on his motorcycle and ended up at Christiania. He saw three Bullitts behind the Månefiskeren café and he recognised one of them. Mine. Still with the map of Copenhagen on the cargo bay and even the Copenhagenize Design Co. logo sticker intact.

Danni rode his motorbike home to Hvidovre - a suburb of Copenhagen - and returned with his minivan. He put my Bullitt in the back and went to a bike shop to buy a lock. He then drove it to Larry vs Harry and locked it outside the shop. He let Claus from Larry vs Harry know it was there and he, in turn, notified me.

How amazing is that. 30 km and a couple of hours out of his day. Just to get the Bullitt back for The Lulu and I.

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