AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

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Walking with open eyes | The Last Word on Nothing →

October 03, 2014 |

Helen Fields:

Science, it turns out, backs up my love for the walking commute. For a study published earlier this year in the journal Preventive Medicine, researchers in the United Kingdom analyzed data from a study of nearly 18,000 British commuters. They found that those who walked to work were, psychologically speaking, better off than those who drove. People who took public transportation had more psychological wellbeing than drivers, too, although not as much as walkers.

Great article. She only forgot to mention that according to the study, the same health benefits also apply to those who cycle to work.

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Actual work on vintage Macs is possible →

October 03, 2014 |

Riccardo Mori shares his thoughts on this Ars Technica piece by Andrew Cunningham:

I’m quite experienced when it comes to vintage Macs and optimising them to make the most of them. The Ars Technica piece by Cunningham left a bitter taste in my mouth, and as I voiced on Twitter and App.net, I believe the author (perhaps due to inexperience and impatience with vintage hardware and software) hasn’t painted a completely fair picture of how these machines and systems can actually perform.

Really interesting overview of his impressive collection of vintage Macs, and how he still uses them.

Via Stephen Hackett.

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Faster horses

October 02, 2014

There’s a great quote that is often attributed to Henry Ford, the man who revolutionized the automobile industry with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. You’ve probably heard it before:

If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.

Whether Ford actually ever said them or not, those are wise words, and they apply to a great many things beyond cars. The gist of it is that consumers largely judge new products by comparing them to their existing competitors. That’s how we instinctively know if something is better. However, what happens when an entirely new product comes along? What happens when there are no real competitors?

When there’s no reference, there’s no objective way to quantify how good —or bad— a product is. As a last resort, people will still try to compare it to the closest thing they can think of, even if the comparison doesn’t really work. That can be a dangerous thing, but it can also be an opportunity.

The main lesson behind Ford’s words is that, if you aim to create a revolution, you must be willing to part with the existing preconceptions that are holding your competitors back. Only then will you be able to take a meaningful leap forward. That will surely attract some criticism in the beginning, but once the product manages to stand on its own, people will see it for what it really is.

The tech world is largely governed by that rule. It’s what we now call disruption. Apple, in particular, is famous for anticipating what people need before they even know it, disrupting entire markets. That’s arguably the main reason behind their massive success during the past decade.

In retrospect, Apple products are often seen as revolutionary, but only after they’ve gained a foothold in the market and more importantly, in our collective consciousness. Only then, people start seeing them for the revolutionary devices they always were. At the time of their announcement, though, they tend to face strong criticism from people that don’t really understand them. Apple products are usually not terribly concerned with conforming to the status quo and in fact, more often than not they’re actively trying to disrupt it. And that drives some people nuts.

It happened with the iPod:

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

It happened with the iPhone.

That is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine…

It also happened with the iPad.

It’s just a big iPod touch.

There’s another example that’s particularly telling. During the last episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber and Ben Thompson reminded me of the public criticism that the original iPhone faced when Apple announced it. Much of that criticism was focused on its non-removable battery, a first in the mobile phone industry at the time. Back then, many people were used to carrying a spare battery in case their phone happened to die mid-day. Once the iPhone arrived and people couldn’t swap batteries anymore, they became angry. The iPhone didn’t conform to what they already knew, and they didn’t like it.

But the iPhone was never a horse.

7 years later, swappable batteries are no longer a thing, and nobody remembers them anymore. Some people may think of it as nice-to-have, and some others prefer to carry an extra battery pack, but for the most part, battery-swappability is not a factor driving smartphone sales.

Was it ever really a big deal?

Of course not. Swappable batteries were never a feature, they were merely a way to deal with the technological shortcomings of the time. Apple knew that if they managed to get a full day’s worth of use out of the iPhone’s battery, there wouldn’t be a need for it to be removable anymore, and they trusted people to eventually understand and accept that. It was a gamble, but history has shown that they were right.

The same thing happened with MacBooks a few years ago, but by then, Apple’s solution had already proven to be the right one. Indeed, it seems a bit silly to complain about a non-removable battery when your laptop gets 12 hours of battery life.

And yet, no matter how many times Apple has been right in the past, people keep finding reasons to complain about their new products. The Apple Watch, of course, is no different:

Apple Watch is ugly and boring (and Steve Jobs would have agreed).

It’s not even a finished product, and some people are already slamming it. And it’s only going to get worse.

People don’t like what they don’t understand and so far, nobody understands the Apple Watch. I’m not even sure anybody can; we just don’t know enough about it at this point. In the absence of a valid reference, many are sure to dismiss it as either irrelevant or flawed, simply because it doesn’t conform to their own existing preconceptions. Because, like the iPhone, the Apple Watch is not a horse either.

That’s a very human response, deeply rooted in our nature. It’s actually uncontrollable, to a degree. We’ve been evolutionary conditioned to be wary of the unknown, because there was a time not so long ago, when our very survival depended on it. However, given that we’re not fighting smilodons for food anymore, perhaps we should at least try to keep an open mind about things. Especially shiny things that cost hundreds —or thousands— of dollars and have the potential to disrupt our entire lives and redefine the way we communicate with each other.

I’m not saying that you should like the Apple Watch. I’m certainly not saying you should buy one. I’m just saying, it can’t hurt to give it the benefit of the doubt. There’s so much to gain and so little to lose.

The Apple Watch is not a faster horse but who knows? It just may end up being your favorite thing.

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God, Darwin and my college Biology class | The New York Times →

October 02, 2014 |

David P. Barash:

I’m a biologist, in fact an evolutionary biologist, although no biologist, and no biology course, can help being “evolutionary.” My animal behavior class, with 200 undergraduates, is built on a scaffolding of evolutionary biology.

And that’s where The Talk comes in. It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.

It’s really difficult for me to accept that Evolution vs. Creation is still an actual debate today.

Via Kottke.

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Little things that improve the way Shawn Blanc works on a Mac →

October 02, 2014 |

Plenty of useful tips from Shawn here on how to use automation tasks as part of your workflow to improve daily productivity:

Computers are great at doing the boring, automated stuff we don’t like to do. So why not automate common tasks (like performing backups of your computer), pre-make decisions for your computer to carry out on your behalf (such as auto-filing certain email newsletters), and generally just find ways to make yourself more efficient?

Good stuff. He makes an interesting point towards the end:

It can be easy to get hyper nerdy about this stuff, and to spend forever and a day tinkering and fiddling and “optimizing”. I listed out the above things not to say that you should be utilizing them as well, but instead to give you an idea of perhaps one or two ways that you could work smarter.

He’s right on the money here, and it made me think of this wonderful xkcd comic from last year:

Is It Worth the Time?

That could very well serve as a rough guideline, to keep things in perspective before you start going crazy with the automation scripts.

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Ben Brooks on newsletters and magazine apps →

October 02, 2014 |

Speaking of Ben Brooks, this is a great essay:

I could have a magazine, but what do I decide to publish in the magazine versus here? And when someone asks me to define my rules, and I cannot define them, that’s how and when I know there are no rules and thus no need for two publishing platforms.

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Can we trust Uber? →

October 02, 2014 |

Peter Sims:

Then, a funny thing happened. One night, a couple of years ago, I was in an Uber SUV in NYC, headed to Penn Station to catch the train to Washington DC when I got a text message from a tech socialite of sorts (I’ll spare her name because Gawker has already parodied her enough), but she’s someone I hardly know, asking me if I was in an Uber car at 33th and 5th (or, something like that). I replied that I was indeed, thinking that she must be in an adjacent car. Looking around, she continued to text with updates of my car’s whereabouts, so much so that I asked the driver if others could see my Uber location profile? “No,” he replied, “that’s not possible.”

Of course, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines applies. Shameful.

Via Ben Brooks.

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Matt Gemmell on the Apple Watch →

October 02, 2014 |

There are already smartwatches available, and they’re all also gadgets. They live in the tech sector too, and they’ve been designed and marketed as such, to the same old crowd of consumers. They are geek toys, without exception.

Apple doesn’t care about that market, because it’s a tiny segment of an industry they already dominate. What Apple cares about is the wristwatch market.

Excellent piece, and I’m largely in agreement. There’s no doubt that the Apple Watch will be extremely popular among geeks, and even mainstream consumers. What’s not so clear is whether it will succeed in charming users of traditional, mechanical watches. Those are a different kind of customer altogether, one that Apple has never courted before.

That is what may ultimately make or break the Apple Watch’s case as a timeless, iconic device, and take it beyond the space occupied by typical tech gadgets in people’s minds. Judging from Apple’s marketing strategy thus far, it looks like they’re keenly aware of that, and are acting accordingly.

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