Federico Viticci's 24 hours with Pixelmator for iPad →

October 23, 2014 |

Great overview by Federico of one of the apps that were demoed on-stage during Apple’s iPad event. It looks like an amazing app and I’m really excited to try it, but I fear these photo-editing apps won’t be particularly useful to me until they’re able to handle RAW files.

Which is to say, not anytime soon, sadly.

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Ben Brooks reviews Tom Bihn's Aeronaut 30, Travel Laundry Stuff Sack, and Daylight Backpack →

October 23, 2014 |

I really enjoyed this review by Ben:

The Aeronaut 30 is only 4 liters larger than the GR1, but those four liters make a world of difference. In fact, the Aeronaut 30 is the perfect travel bag for me, because it is the perfect size for the length of trips I normally take: 2-3 nights.

I absolutely love the Aeronaut 30 and in my testing I found that it was well made, and well considered.

The GORUCK backpacks are awesome, but they must fit your travel preferences in order to be right for you. They’re just extremely opinionated bags. Most of the time this is a good thing — great design is about making decisions — but sometimes it’s not.

It’s good to know there are other high-quality bags out there, for those occasions where you just need a different option. Ben does a terrific job of pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each bag in a variety of situations. Great stuff.

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Student Spins Double Life Among Spanish Elite →

October 23, 2014 |

Raphael Minder, The New York Times:

MADRID — How is it that a baby-faced, 20-year-old university student skates his way into the coronation celebration of the new king, passes himself off as a government adviser to reportedly broker a lucrative business deal, and avoids traffic jams by flashing a fake police light?

That is the question members of Spain’s security services are asking themselves after the student, Francisco Nicolás Gómez Iglesias, was arrested last week and quickly gained prominence as the country’s most notorious gate-crasher.

The answer, disturbingly enough, is that he did it by falsifying police and secret service documents and pretending to hold several government and other official posts, Spain’s national police say.

How incredibly embarrassing. If it were a movie I’d have trouble believing it.

Also, the damned kid stole my idea. What am I going to do now with all these forged passports?

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Yale scientists achieve the world's coolest molecules →

October 23, 2014 |

Impressive milestone:

The tiny titans in question are bits of strontium monofluoride, dropped to 2.5 thousandths of a degree above absolute zero through a laser cooling and isolating process called magneto-optical trapping (MOT). They are the coldest molecules ever achieved through direct cooling, and they represent a physics milestone likely to prompt new research in areas ranging from quantum chemistry to tests of the most basic theories in particle physics.

Cool (no pun intended). Now we’re one step closer to cryo-sleep and interstellar travel. I just hope there are no actual xenomorphs out there.

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Thoughts On Twitter

October 22, 2014

Twitter has once again been making the rounds on the Internet after they announced a new developer platform for their service. However, far from being a universally acclaimed move, it opened up some old wounds, causing many developers to voice their concern, caution against the excitement and remind people that what Twitter giveth, Twitter taketh away.

Marco Arment, in particular, has been very vocal in his distrust of Twitter the company, and with good reason:

But that’s not the biggest problem — even an anonymous API is shaky ground because it can always change or disappear, like Twitter’s original API did. The problem is still the complete power over an increasingly important communication medium residing in a single company and its single centralized service.

This thought is, I believe, worth additional consideration.

Twitter the service

As a communication tool, Twitter’s meteoric rise to the top of our collective consciousness in just a few years is nothing short of astounding. This popularity is, for the most part, well-deserved: Twitter is remarkably good at enabling real-time coverage of breaking news and emergencies all over the world, to cite but one example. We have never witnessed such a rapid flow of information before. Corrupt governments being thrown out of office, civil wars being waged on the streets… everything happening on this planet is now broadcast live by millions of improvised on-site reporters, and there’s no going back from that.

This incredibly powerful communication tool is, however, a double-edged sword. Without an editorial selection of content, such potential is largely wasted and as a result, we often get an endless stream of cat pictures in our timelines — or in some cases, ahem, dogs.

Perhaps more importantly, without any reasonable way to verify the authenticity of the information being shared, Twitter also enables misinformation at an unprecedented scale: several celebrities are declared dead on a daily basis and the entire Internet mourns them for a few hours at a time, before the rumor is inevitably dispelled by an official source.

Those rumors usually end up fading away as quickly as they came, but sometimes the power of Twitter is wielded by a select few for far more nefarious purposes: to manipulate the truth and even publicly shame and harass other people. The recent #GamerGate controversy is a perfectly good example of a ludicrous debate that’s being actively enabled by Twitter. Thousands of people insulting and harassing women for having the audacity to speak up against one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination in the digital age. If these people didn’t have platforms like Twitter, the debate would’ve been put to bed a long time ago. Or perhaps I have too much faith in people.

Twitter the company

As a company, Twitter suffers from the same issues as most other wildly successful companies: the struggle to keep up with the popularity of their product has affected the way the company is run, with many questionable choices being made. Twitter is not a company that knows where it’s going; they don’t have a clearly-defined DNA that people can easily understand. Twitter is a company that wants to be everything to everybody: it wants to be a great communication tool for the masses, it wants to be an amazing money-making machine for its investors and it wants to be a revolutionary platform for developers. These are all noble goals, except sometimes they happen to conflict with each other and in those times, Twitter has done a very poor job of prioritizing one over the others.

A couple years ago, Twitter positioned itself as an ad-driven business and prioritized that over its developer platform. They changed their public API to enforce severe restrictions on 3rd-party developers, thus considerably limiting the potential of 3rd-party apps to flourish. This was a defensive move by Twitter, to ensure that most people using the service would use their own official apps instead, where they can control the experience.

Now, however, they’re putting some measures in place to try and woo developers back. Except many developers won’t be fooled again. As Marco said, Twitter the company should not be trusted with the future of your business, because they’ve clearly shown in the past that they’re not afraid to screw you over to advance their own agenda. There’s nothing personal about that, mind you — it’s actually a perfectly respectable business strategy — but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that Twitter is an altruistic company.

The future

Twitter has become so ingrained in our lives that it’s easy to think of it as a public service instead of a private company. Many businesses use Twitter in their ad campaigns and even TV stations use it to promote their content and engage their audiences. In short, we are treating it as though we’re entitled to it, as if it were a commodity service that will be around in its present form forever. I fear we may be in for a rude awakening.

Twitter has been tremendously successful, but they owe us nothing. The minute their interests don’t align with ours anymore, they won’t hesitate to change course. Perhaps we would do well to not place such high expectations on them in the first place.

Whenever you build something on top of a service you don’t control, you’re assuming a great deal of risk and uncertainty. 3rd-party developers have already been burned once by changes in Twitter’s policy, and there’s absolutely nothing stopping them from doing it again in the future. If you’re thinking about building a critical part of your business on top of Twitter, you should be prepared to deal with that.

As my favorite Bond character once said:

Always have an escape plan.

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The reviews of the new iPads are out

October 22, 2014

It’s iPad review day, and the usual suspects have all published their reviews. Let’s have a look at what they have to say:

  • John Gruber focuses on the iPad Air 2, calling it “a thorough refresh”, and puts forth an interesting idea: with 2 GB of RAM and perhaps even a 3-core CPU — still unconfirmed — the iPad Air 2 makes a solid case as the best overall iOS device, surpassing the iPhone for the first time in terms of performance. In fact, the Air 2 is even faster than a 3-year-old MacBook Air. That’s nuts.

  • Jim Dalrymple writes about the benefits of Touch ID, not only in terms of convenience, but also for security reasons. He also states that there’s room for both new iPads in his life, since they are optimized for different situations.

  • Nilay Patel reviews the iPad Air 2 for The Verge, and he calls it “a monumental achievement in the field of iterative improvement”. He also criticizes Apple for missing an opportunity to add more tablet-specific features in iOS 8.

  • Walt Mossberg was not impressed with the new iPads, and calls Apple out for not pushing the hardware in several important areas such as display resolution, battery life, etc. In fact, according to his tests, battery life took a noticeable hit on the Air 2 compared to last year’s iPad Air — albeit, to be fair, it’s still comfortably over the advertised 10-hour mark.

These should give you a nice overall feeling for what the new iPads have to offer. If you’re in the market, I encourage you to read through all of them before deciding which one to purchase.

The general consensus seems to be quite similar to my own thoughts: if you already own one of last year’s iPads (the iPad Air or the iPad mini with a Retina Display), there may not be enough improvements here to justify the upgrade. If you’re on an iPad 4 or earlier, tough, then the upgrade is quite significant and you’re pretty much guaranteed to love the new iPads.

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Not For Me | Minimal Mac →

October 21, 2014 |

Patrick Rhone, on why the latest generation of Apple products (both hardware and software) is not for him:

I’ve been around too long and learned from experience that technology has to prove itself. It should make us better. It should solve problems. And, we should consider these things before allowing any new tool into our daily lives. We should ask ourselves if it’s for us.

My 2008 iMac, my 2010 MacBook Pro and my 1972 vinyl record player agree with this.

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Apple releases iOS 8.1 →

October 20, 2014 |

Apple today released iOS 8.1, the newest version of the iOS operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Jason Snell has a complete list of changes:

The big change is support for Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the U.S. The Camera Roll is also back, and iCloud Photo Library has been added in beta. There are plenty of other changes, so check out the change notes to see if your favorite bug is being addressed. (And if you want to wait to see if the update does something weird to some people’s phones, no one will blame you.)

You can download and install the update right from your iOS device. And if you run into storage problems, Rene Ritchie has you covered.

Happy updating!

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