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.

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' »


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.

A thank-you video to all the app developers that make our smartphones so great. A really well-made video.

Design Is About Intent »

John Morgan has written a brilliant essay on design. This is one of my favourite pieces on design I’ve ever read. Few are as well-written and fewer still are as well-sourced.

It’s difficult to try find a passage that truly encapsulates the piece, so do yourself a favour and dive right in.

Intent means purpose; something highly designed was crafted with intention in every creative decision. Frank Lloyd Wright explained that intent drives design with the credo “form follows function“; P&G calls this being “purpose-built.” The designer is the person who answers the question “How should it be?”

Overarching intent is easy. The hard part is driving that conscious decision-making throughout every little choice in the creative process. Good designers have a clear sense of the overall purpose of their creation; great designers can say, “This is why we made that decision” about a thousand details.

Which is exactly what Apple does. Their obsession with intentional choice is palpable and personal. When Jony Ive, Apple’s newly titled SVP of Design, criticizes a material selection or feature decision, “he’s known to use ‘arbitrary’ as a term of abuse.” Steve Jobs himself couldn’t even make the most mundane personal design decisions without deep consideration of intent; according to his biographer, this led to a longtime lack of ample furniture in his home:

“We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” recalled [wife Laurene] Powell. “We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’”

2048, success and me »

Gabriele Cirulli, maker of 2048 - an open-source near-clone of the excellent Threes:

I built 2048 in a weekend, just for fun. I had become addicted to two other games, called 1024! and 2048. I loved playing both, and I wanted to create my own version with a different visual style and quicker animations, just to see if I could. At that time, I did not know about Threes, the game from which all the others (including 2048) originated.

Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend, its creators, have poured a huge amount of time and effort into it. They’ve recently expressed their frustration over the popularity that the clones of their game experienced. I understand what they must have felt like, and I have a huge appreciation of the amount of work and love they put into building Threes. 2048 owes its existence to it.

Nice to see some appreciation for the original; which in my opinion still retains the right gameplay mechanics for sufficient challenge, fun, and replay-value.

Vanity Fair: The Great Smartphone War: Apple vs. Samsung »

Kurt Eichenwald chronicles some of the truly shocking corporate moves made by Samsung throughout recent history.

One day in March 2011, cars carrying investigators from Korea’s anti-trust regulator pulled up outside a Samsung facility in Suwon, about 25 miles south of Seoul. They were there ready to raid the building, looking for evidence of possible collusion between the company and wireless operators to fix the prices of mobile phones.

Before the investigators could get inside, security guards approached and refused to let them through the door. A standoff ensued, and the investigators called the police, who finally got them inside after a 30-minute delay. Curious about what had been happening in the plant as they cooled their heels outside, the officials seized video from internal security cameras. What they saw was almost beyond belief.

Upon getting word that investigators were outside, employees at the plant began destroying documents and switching computers, replacing the ones that were being used—and might have damaging material on them—with others.

And my favourite bit:

[…] federal judge Lucy Koh held up the iPad and Galaxy Tab 10.1 and asked a Samsung lawyer if she could identify which was which.

“Not at this distance, your honor,” said the lawyer, Kathleen Sullivan, who was standing about 10 feet away.

Stunning piece.

Microsoft Web Browser Has Security Flaw, Just Three Weeks After Microsoft Ended Windows XP Support »

Now that was fast.

The bug affects the browser when used on multiple Microsoft operating systems. But the situation poses a special concern for people still using Windows XP.

The software was introduced in 2001, and Microsoft on April 8 stopped supporting XP with software updates—including security patches for the operating system and its browser. XP can run up to Internet Explorer 8.

"XP users are not safe anymore and this is the first vulnerability that will be not patched for their system," Symantec Corp. researcher Christian Tripputi wrote in a blog post for the data-security company.

Windows XP, though outdated and plagued with security flaws, still runs on some 300 million machines. Microsoft offers extended support for corporate clients still running XP, but at a hefty price.

Gillette’s Razor = Everything Wrong With American Innovation »

Kevin Roose:

The Wall Street Journal obtained the marketing materials for Gillette’s new razor, the ProGlide FlexBall. It’s a men’s razor that does what every other men’s razor since time immemorial has done – removes hair from your face – but with “a swiveling ball-hinge” that the company says will make it easier to get a clean shave. It will retail for $11.49 and $12.59, depending on whether you want the battery-powered version or not, and Gillette is planning to sell $188 million worth of the things in the next year alone.

I won’t mince words: ProGlide FlexBall is a bad idea. A really bad idea. In fact, the razor represents everything terrible about America’s innovation economy.

"The best ideas have to win" - Steve Jobs On Supposedly Making All Apple Decisions »

Found this old gem quoting Steve Jobs at the D8 conference in 2010 (about an hour into the video):

Jobs: Oh, yeah, no we have wonderful arguments.

Mossberg: And do you win them all?

Jobs: Oh no I wish I did. No, you see you can’t. If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to, you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay.

Emphasis mine. This leadership style, that of letting the best ideas win, is undoubtedly a major factor contributing to the longevity and success of Apple under Jobs.

Designing for Gullible »

Michael Lopp on iOS notifications and their annoying traits:

It’s not a bad approach, but it doesn’t design for the case where every app developer gets what they want: notifications enabled to make sure that I don’t forget about their application in the sea of applications on my phone. This design pattern makes it easy to opt in, but difficult to opt out.

I think there’s so much room for improvement here. Lopp’s piece is mostly critical of three aspects:

  • The timing of apps asking you to enable push notifications.
  • The difficulty in removing apps from notifications after you’ve accepted.
  • The notifications themselves are frequently useless: they simply serve to try remind you of their existence.

The third point makes the second even more egregious. That second point is by far the most important. The UI for managing notifications isn’t terrible, but it’s fairly user-hostile.

A long list of apps for which you need to drill down and disable or change? Not great.

I would think that we should be able to hide or “mute” notifications straight from Notification Centre, where they’re most annoying.

(via Ben Brooks).