Bleached Bits

Sort of a running commentary on the world of tech, with a little bit of other stuff. Mostly geeky stuff. I'm a software maker. I think about users and problems.

This is a linked list of stuff I find. You can find me @simonsc on twitter.

The Meaning of an Image

Apple products, in a line

Apple showed off this slide a few times in their keynote last Thursday.

It’s a picture of their main product lines in a line in profile1.

There are lovely, geometric shapes going on here. Circles, straight lines, perpendicular lines, and (almost) a triangle.

Conceptually, however, it gets even more interesting. There are many ways to interpret it.

These are the main different form factors for different kinds of computing. It shows off their unrelenting commitment to making products thinner, lighter, better.

It also shows remarkable clarity of purpose. Tim Cook is famously extremely proud of Apple’s focus — the power to say no to product ideas when it’s not right. On the recent Charlie Rose interview, he repeated his famous line where he says that everything Apple makes, they can fit onto a standard-sized table.

There’s also a personal angle going on here. Going from right-to-left (reverse order), you get more and more personal devices.

Start with the iMac, the oldest product line here. It’s ostensibly a desktop computer, can conceivably be a family or shared computer. There’s the MacBook, which is almost always a personal machine. The iPad, which is a machine you use for quieter times of the day, and for being creative. The iPhone, which is incredibly personal. And finally, this culminates in the newest addition: the Apple Watch — which Apple themselves market as "our most personal device ever".

It’s a pretty incredible image.


  1. A few niche products are missing (the Mac Pro, most notably), but this is basically their full consumer line-up.

All You Need to Know about iPhone 6 Plus Bending »

If there’s one article you need to read about the infamous iPhone 6 Plus #bendgate, then read this one by the Washington Post.

A total of 9 (nine!) people have complained to Apple about bent iPhones. No doubt the true number is higher than that, but considering they’ve sold millions upon millions, this is conclusive proof of how overblown this “issue” really is.

Why Banks Are Buying In to Apple Pay »

Mary Wisniewski, writing for American Banker:

Still, Apple is perceived as a company that creates stellar customer experiences that drive new consumer behaviors.

Steve Schultz, chief operating officer at Check, a unit of Intuit that provides a mobile app for bill payment, views the deal as something that will accelerate mobile payments. “If anyone can do it, Apple can,” said Schultz.

Swatch inventor: Swiss watch industry missed the smartwatch boat »

The co-inventor of the original Swatch watch, Elmar Mock warns Switzerland to ignore the Apple Watch at their own peril:

swissinfo.ch: But are consumers ready for such products that some dismiss as mere gadgets?

EM: The Apple Watch is by far the most attractive of the smartwatches. I would definitely wear it. Don’t forget that the early smartphones did not immediately replace conventional mobile phones. When the iPhone first launched, Blackberry was sure that consumers would notice the lack of a keyboard and Nokia was convinced that the big screen would put users off…

Brief Thoughts on Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is an intriguing (to say the least) new product.

It’s trying to redefine two markets at once:

  • The brand-new smartwatch market. Competing with the likes of Google, Samsung, LG, and (perhaps most notably) Motorola.
  • The established watch market. Low-mid range watches, competing with the likes of Casio, Swatch, Lange, Tissot, and maybe even Omega. It isn’t competing with Rolex.

As a Smartwatch

Nobody is quite sure if they want a smartwatch. Apple is entering relatively early and hoping to help define the market.

The unique take on the UI and the ingenious Digital Crown should help set it apart from its Android Wear competitors, at least in terms of software.

As a Watch

This market is obviously much bigger than the smartwatch market, but it contains all the trappings of being an established market.

There are established, very well respected players, with very mature products.

Secondly, and this is helpful for Apple: watches are usually not considered to be commodity products.

People buying watches are less price sensitive than people buying, say, a pair of shoes. Watches in the $200+ range are differentiated on difficult-to-quantify attributes — like design, materials, build quality, craftsmanship, and even brand prestige.

How has Apple approached this? By all accounts, with great degree of care and consideration for the field. They’ve paid deep attention to the art of timekeeping, and have chosen very high-end materials for their watch.

This piece by Benjamin Clymer explains just what Apple has achieved here with the hardware. It should be required reading for I.T. guys like me to understand the watch market.

The overall level of design in the Apple Watch simply blows away anything – digital or analog – in the watch space at $350.

The User Interface

The Watch incorporates what they call a Digital Crown, which essentially replaces an analogue crown. It’s used to zoom in and out of apps, scroll, adjust settings, dials, and so on.

The rationale behind it is that pinch-to-zoom doesn’t work on a device this tiny. Two fingers cover the entire screen!

The Digital Crown is a new interaction model.

There’s a good chance we’ll the Digital Crown as pivotal to the success of the Watch, in the same way as we saw the following interaction models as key:

  • Mouse — Macintosh, 1984.
  • Click-Wheel — iPod, 2001.
  • Multi-Touch — iPhone (and eventually iPad), 2007.

Overall, you could say many things about the Watch, but you certainly can’t call it boring.

A Watch Guy's Thoughts On The Apple Watch »

Benjamin Clymer, a “watch guy”. The entire piece is absolutely terrific and should be required reading for I.T. guys:

The overall level of design in the Apple Watch simply blows away anything – digital or analog – in the watch space at $350. There is nothing that comes close to the fluidity, attention to detail, or simple build quality found on the Apple Watch in this price bracket.

Turns out the Watch may actually not be overpriced after all.

Seiko does offer some nice things at $349 or less, but again, they feel like they cost exactly what they do. The Apple Watch feels like a lot of thought went into it, and no doubt it did. It feels expensive.

Then, he discusses the drawbacks:

The Apple Watch doesn’t fit under my shirt cuff without serious effort, if at all. I believe that great design should not disrupt daily life, and a watch that doesn’t fit under a shirt sleeve is missing something. Apple is amazing and building thin, elegant machines, and I was surprised by how bulky this is.

Moto 360 review »

Great, fair review by David Pearce:

The Moto 360’s most impressive feature is that I stopped noticing it almost immediately. Whenever I wear the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live, I’m constantly compelled to fidget with it; there’s this unexplainable feeling of having something alien on my wrist that is there because I need to use it. The 360, on the other hand, just vanished into the spot left on my wrist by the Seiko watch that conveniently died this week.

There’s an understated elegance to this device. It’s utterly without flash or flair, but it’s classy as can be.

Some great comments about Android Wear in there, too:

A few months in, there’s still really not that much you can do with Android Wear. Whenever I show it to people my demo almost always either ends in ten seconds (“look at all the watchfaces!”) or involves me forcing someone to text me so I can respond from my wrist.

Mac OS X Yosemite Preview »

Great video by Dieter Bohn on The Verge on what to expect with OS X Yosemite. Apple’s truly done a phenomenal job.

This isn’t just a cut-and-paste of the design aesthetic of iOS layered on top of the Mac, it’s taking that aesthetic and making it feel native. It doesn’t lock you into using Apple’s devices, but the features that work hand-in-hand with the iPhone are probably the most exciting ones.

More than anything else, Yosemite is an example of Apple at the height of its powers. It takes part in an ecosystem of devices that ensures each one feels distinct and appropriate to its use, but nevertheless is recognizably Apple. When somebody takes a cheap shot at Yosemite by comparing its translucency to Windows Vista, just smile and start up your iPhone’s hotspot from your menubar.

PHP Developer Needed in Columbus, OH! »

This is such a great piece by Marco Arment:

After looking over my resume with me in person, which was pretty light since I was applying for my first job after getting my computer science degree, they said I couldn’t and shouldn’t be a programmer, and should stick to basic IT jobs instead.

[The recruiting firm] assigned me one awful weekend job where I, and about 50 other similar chumps, sat around and watched a huge company’s PCs upgrade to Windows 2000 and occasionally clicked buttons when necessary. I quit after two days when I got a real job offer — as a programmer.

But that was mostly luck: a friend from college had just been hired there and connected us. I narrowly escaped a career of working for cheap IT body-farms, always regretting not starting out as a programmer like I wanted to.

So, Robert Half Technology, kindly fuck off.1

Material Design recreated in Keynote App »

Last month at I/O 2014, Google introduced Android “L”, a preview of the next release. It showcases a new design language that Google (and Matias Duarte) are extremely proud of, called Material Design.

Material Design in particular stresses on animation as a core principle. Indeed, the animations in the promo videos are very attractively done.

This video is amazing to me. Doing these kinds of animations in Keynote is incredible, not something I’ve thought of before.

Recruiting a Designer? Here's What You Should Know »

Min Ming Lo:

Design-related roles exist in a range of areas from industrial design (cars, furniture) to print (magazines, other publications) to tech (websites, mobile apps). With the relatively recent influx of tech companies focused on creating interfaces for screens, many new design roles have emerged. Job titles like UX or UI designer are confusing to the uninitiated and unfamiliar even to designers who come from other industries.

Let’s attempt to distill what each of these titles really mean within the context of the tech industry.

Finally, proper and distinct definitions between the different kinds of designers: UX, UI, graphic, interaction, and product.

A must-read.

BBC News - eBay pulls sales of Chinese 'spyware phones' »

BBC:

EBay [sic] is barring listings for a smartphone after reports the model is pre-installed with spyware in its Chinese factory.

It said the malware was disguised as the legitimate Google Play Store app.

Everything you would guess Chinese knockoffs do is true. This is absurd.

"The spyware runs in the background and cannot be detected by users," it said.

"Unbeknownst to the user, the smartphone sends personal data to a server located in China and is able to covertly install additional applications.

"This makes it possible to retrieve personal data, intercept calls and online banking data, read emails and text messages or control the camera and microphone remotely.

"The program also blocks the installation of security updates."

Nobody. Understands. Punctuation. »

A great little essay on the English language by Peter Welch.

English is a mutt of a language, inheriting ludicrously contradictory spellings and grammars from other languages. The fact that word and whirred are pronounced exactly the same while lead and lead sound different depending on what you mean (unless the former is in the past tense in which case it’s spelled differently and pronounced like the latter) should tell us English is not so much a black tie affair as it is a soccer riot with a body count. But if we accept the chaos that informs the language, there’s a lot of expressive power to be found.