Timelessness

Robert McGinley Myers:

With the advent of time-shifted television, we no longer pin days of the week to certain TV programs. With the advent of email, we no longer feel the passing of time between sending a letter and receiving a response. With the advent of digital photography, we no longer have to get our photos to developed. With the advent of Facebook, we no longer have to wait for Christmas cards to see pictures of the people we used to know, and their children.

It's not an original observation, but there is a downside to eliminating all this waiting. I once told a co-worker that whenever I was forced to restart my computer, it always felt like the least productive two minutes of my entire life. It's perhaps inevitable that the more digital technology reduces the time we used to spend waiting for things, the less patient we become.

And if you work from home, like many of us, then you don’t even have commutes to gauge some passing of time. All things considered, sleep cycles, meal times, and weekends are just about all that’s left, and even those routines are in a muddled schedule for many of us that avoid routines.

I for one crave some routine to help the passing of time to be restored. I remember what it felt like — the patterns of thought processes during my childhood — and I miss it. Delayed gratification, developing patience, and seeing fulfillment when all things were due seemed… healthy. My focus was stronger.

I call this timelessness. It’s not a positive mental framework. You lose the awareness of time and you have a significant disconnect with reality. Adults life out their lives with more immaturity, like the children they are inside that haven’t earned their place in society. And their are other problems, to be sure.

For more insight into artificially slowing down and speeding up the passing of time, read Brett McKay’s Be a ‘Time Wizard: How to Slow Down and Speed Up Time’. The article’s title is link bait, but the content is anything but.

MovieByte #110: Lenox Square

TJ and I discuss Marvel’s new The Avengers: Age of Ultron teaser trailer, the Amazon Fire TV, which we’re both ordering, and review Kill the Messenger, which stars Jeremy Renner and Rosemarie DeWitt. I was losing my voice. TJ didn’t get to see the film. So in an unusual turn of events, I do most of the talking and sound like I smoke too much.

Kill the Messenger is worth seeing, if you like government conspiracies — the ones that turn out to be true — and Jeremy Renner. He delivers even when the script does not.

Pixelmator for iPad

David Sparks:

I knew it was going to be something special but not this special. For five dollars, you'll get a full features photo editor that just a few years ago would have required a Mac Pro and thousands of dollars in software.

Pixelmator is one of the very few tools besides Photoshop that I enjoy using for graphic design work. I’m looking forward to using it on the iPad.

Oh, and who says that iPad apps don’t have much to offer? At least for designers, audio technicians, and videographers, the iPad is an indispensable tool in 2014.

Were we too hard on skeuomorphism?

Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson wrote about Steve Jobs, skeuomorphism, and design history that predates iOS. He shares one particular anecdote about a Breitling watch ad and the QuickTime 4 player interface.

I’ve defended skeuomorphism before. Can I prove that skeumorphism is good? No, but the way Apple has used it over the years has made a profound affect on me. When I started using System 7 as a child, skeuomorphism was the primary reason I was attracted to design and the Mac. I spent countless hours studying the interface because it reminded me of real things. I was fascinated with the virtual world that skeuomorphism created: teetering in an arbitrary balancing act between the realistic and the imaginary.

I remember that when Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, I was immediately taken with its graphic user interface. The iPhone was loaded with skeuomorphism, which was inspired by Mac OS X’s UI. I admired Scott Forstall’s and Steve’s design choices. I wanted to read books again because iBooks was attractive to me, whereas the Kindle’s drab display was a turnoff.

Has skeuomorphism always worked well? Of course not. Just like flat design of iOS 7 and Yosemite will not make everyone happy, opinionated design will only work for people that mutually share the opinion. And there is always the question of is it implemented effectively? That’s yet another subjective realm that many a designer and customer has debated.

Thankfully, I have enjoyed Apple’s design in 1994, 2004, and in 2014. And along the way, I think I’ve picked up on a possibility that many haven’t considered. I think that in years to come, Yosemite’s new design standards could introduce a new balancing act: one where skeuomorphism will be yin to flat design’s yang.

PS: I still enjoy reading on the iPad with iBooks in iOS 8, but I also fondly remember the impact it made on my reading habits in 2010.

Yosemite’s Drive Icons

Kirk McElhearn notes that Yosemite’s hard drive, external drive, and Time Machine icons are somewhat inaccurate. I hadn’t noticed this flaw before but he’s certainly right. They break from the standards in place for all the other icons.

And there isn’t an SSD icon, should you have one of those. My SSD is represented as a built-in hard drive.

The New iCloud

Macworld:

iCloud Drive is less flexible than other cloud storage services, such as Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, OneDrive, and MediaFire. Outside of the options available in the Sharing menu you can’t share and sync your iCloud Drive documents with others, for example, thus making document collaboration tricky. With these third-party storage services you can send a link to anyone so they can download a file. With iCloud Drive you can share files this way only with documents created with iWork apps. iCloud Drive has other limitations as well. You’ll need OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 and you can’t save files larger than 15GB, for example.

iCloud Drive isn’t as powerful as Dropbox and other competitors, but for many customers it will be sufficient. And even though I wouldn’t live without Dropbox at this point, for the sake of some of my workflows, iCloud Drive is better suited.

Read Macworld’s article if you want to get a complete introduction to iCloud Drive.

Not for Some

Patrick Rhone at Minimal Mac:

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.

Me, I’m happy here. Things work in a way I am happy with. The same as they did yesterday. And, if that’s the case for you then the best upgrade one can make is to get to know what you have even better. Maybe dig up a iOS 7 or Mavericks tips & tricks post from last year that’s growing stale on some tech blog. You just might make a writer’s day when they open their stats and see your solitary click on a post they thought long forgotten and irrelevant. Let them know why that post is still there and why it matters — it’s for you.

Good advice. My wife and some of my friends are of a similar mind. We geeks like to think that every update is ultimately timely and important. They aren’t. Many people are better served with last year’s tech, because their use case is running smoothly, and if they’ll take the time to learn a little bit more about their devices or software, they become all the more efficient.

Custom Yosemite Icons

Sebastiaan De With is offering the public a collection of custom app icons tailored to match Yosemite’s look and feel. They are free for your personal use, and they are really the best till all the developers update their own icons, which will happen, like, never.

World’s First Real Hoverboard is Backed by Kickstarter

The hoverboard is one of the geekiest movie devices of the last century. I think it makes for great sci-fi comedy. A lot of people think it would be great in reality.

Hendo has 1,993 backers pledging $352,154 or their $250,000 Kickstarter goal. With investors’ support, they plan to craft usable hoverboards for the public, and they are sharing their technology with other developers that back the campaign. They have 50 days to go, which they don’t need.

MovieByte 109: Denzel Fu

This week on The MovieByte Podcast, TJ’s voice is back.

We skipped entertainment news to deliver you not one but two movie reviews. Besides the very popular Gone Girl, which we are reviewing soon, The Equalizer and The Judge are two of the more appealing movies now in theaters. Both films are worth seeing now or later, but of the two, we favor Robert Downey Jr.’s small-town/family/courtroom drama.

The Fantastic Ho-hum iPad Lineup

A close friend asked me for iPad shopping advice. He’s a family man with six kids, so any device he purchases will eventually be handed down.

He asked, “Do you think you will be trying to sell your iPad Air since there's new ones coming out?”

I didn’t need to think about it for a second. “Nah. I still really like the one I have.” I have an iPad Air with 32 gb, Wi-Fi only.

“Ok. So that first gen one is still a solid choice?”

“Definitely.”

I like it when Apple blows us away with state-of-the-art updates to any of their product lineup. The iPad Air 2 has some interesting improvements, but none that would warrant I spend $400 to upgrade from the year-old iPad Air. The 2 is a refinement of the first generation — not a momentous step up in power or performance.

A few minutes later, my friend asks, “I see no real advantage of the mini 3 over the mini 2.”

“Agreed. It's laughable actually. The 3 comes with Touch ID.” Part of me feels like that should be a blow to Apple’s good name. It’s true that Apple is known for their year-over-year innovations. Is it reasonable to expect that they will always surprise us with their innovations year-over-year? No, it’s not, and I don’t need Apple to do that. Still, something just doesn’t seem right about the iPad lineup.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I was texting with my friend. He added:

My friend’s text message

He wasn’t trying to slam Apple. He likes Macs, iPods and iPhones almost as much as I do. But my friend isn’t overly eager to spend his hard-earned money on one more $500+ device, if he can help it.

I stopped to think of a justification for the product tiers. Is Apple tricking their loyal iPad customers into buying overpriced models? They must have plans for the iPad in the future, but at this time…why do they think the lineup is a good one? I think the lack of substantial differences between the iPad mini 2 and the iPad mini 3 begs for an explanation.

Using Siri to dictate my last response, I thought aloud and told my friend, “I think the technology for the iPads is slowing down similarly to the pace of the iPod touch. There really hasn't been anything new or different about the iPod touch in a few years, and the iPods still make the market happy. But that market is nowhere near the size of the iPhone’s, so Apple isn't motivated to give these devices the best technological advances.”

“Ahh. Good point.”

Of course, if I’m right, my answer to the problem is still oversimplified. Other considerations:

  • The iPad has a longer lifecycle than iPhones.
  • The iPad is better serving education and enterprise markets than the iPhone, which is Apple’s device for potentially every mobile use case.
  • Everyone finds a need for a phone.
  • The iPad is a luxury to many customers.
  • Many developers are not offering the newest apps on the iPad.
  • If you already have an iPhone, and your favorite apps are well supported on the phone, you probably don’t need redundant apps on an iPad because the iPad versions do the same things the iPhone’s do — no more, no less.

And yet, the iPad outsells iPods by a long shot. It’s not going obsolete. It’s just a smaller market than the iPhones’. A few million smaller, which isn’t bad when you’re still selling millions. Apple is justified because their top priority is the most popular device. And when it is more advantageous at a reasonable pace to sell more advanced iPads, you can bet your bottom dollar they will.

It’s difficult for the average customer or business pundit to appreciate this. Apple has made reasonable choices. The iPad lineup isn’t a bad one — it’s just not as exciting as it was last year, or as exciting as it will be next year.

And yet, if you are in the market to buy an iPad, Apple is offering their best lineup to date. It’s also the largest lineup. You can narrowly define the device that appeals the most to you. No need for Apple to answer for their sales strategy.

2 Easy Workarounds for Yosemite’s Transparency

Yosemite's translucent design is welcomed by a few and scary to the rest of us. People are concerned that this level of design detail is needless and illogical, breaking from design that reflects the real world. What goes on in vibrancy is very unnatural to the naked eye, so it’s confusing to many reasonable power users.

Apple calls the visual effect ‘vibrancy’, where you see color bleeding through the window.

I think I have a helpful solution. But first, let’s consider what Apple intended the visual window/wallpaper effect to accomplish. John Siracusa explains in his review of OS X Yosemite:

Apple has offered many different justifications for this aspect of Yosemite’s new look. In the WWDC keynote, Craig Federighi explained in-window blending in the Finder—icons scrolling “behind” the toolbar—by saying, “The use of translucent materials gives you a sense of place as you scroll your content.” Given the > disappearing scroll bars> introduced in Lion, a vague, colored haze showing through the toolbar may indeed be the only indication that more content is available above the currently visible region, but I’m not sure how strong that signal will be to most people.

Federighi also described translucency as a tool for visual customization. “Now your windows take on the personality of your desktop. As you change your desktop picture, your window adapts to reflect that personality and that temperature.” This works best if there’s nothing between a window and the desktop background. The strongest influence on the “personality and temperature” of a window on a busy OS X system is the content of some other window, which is more difficult to control than the desktop picture.

Representing the designers’ endeavors, Federighi made a noble attempt to give grounds for translucency. On the one hand, I like the level of creativity that was exercised to produce a new style for the Mac operating system. Sometimes, I look at vibrancy taking place and it puts a smile on my face. Most of the time, though, vibrancy doesn’t work well in practice. It causes visual dissonance. I think many everyday people will dislike it as much as the pickier artistic crowd.

On the other hand, vibrancy does appeal to me. It has caused me to reconsider the fundamentals. I’m asking myself who said you can’t break from the natural order and why? Not everything has to mimic reality to be visually appealing, and not all aesthetics need to match my tastes to be enjoyable. If the entire OS X experience was comfortable and right to my tastes all the time, I would probably get bored with it. A little friction is healthy. It’s illogical, but it’s one way that design holds our interest.

Anyone can easily turn off translucency, or at least most of the effect that you’ll notice.

If you are not interested in creative friction, then there are two solutions. For one, you can reduce transparency from the System Preferences > Accessibility > Display menu. Check off Reduce transparency. Most all of the color will drain out of the vibrant Sidebar. The Dock and Menu Bar will be brighter (more opaque and white). Even Safari’s Toolbar will be a solid gray as you scroll webpages. I think this is the solution for most people.

Solid Color Background Images

Here’s an alternative solution for people that want color from vibrancy, but not all the color you get from highly colorful backgrounds.

The Solid Color backgrounds are a reasonable option if you want a little color from vibrancy.

Consider using a solid color background wallpaper. Yosemite has a few folders of different types of backgrounds in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver:

  • Desktop Pictures
  • Nature
  • Plants
  • Art
  • Black & White
  • Abstract
  • Patterns
  • Solid Colors

Maybe the real problem is the wallpapers you’re using. Could it be you have grown accustom to intrusive backgrounds? Why are you making allowance for them but not transparency? And ask yourself how much time you see your desktop. If the answer is almost never, because you mostly have windows filling your screen, then you don’t need some artistic background anyway.

Not many people would be interested in the last folder under Desktop & Screen Saver. The muted colors are boring, reminiscent of drab office colors. But to the extreme, the unbearable ones are the pale lavender and white wallpapers — there is no excuse for them! If you preview the white desktop background, you should note that text on the desktop (file names) are very hard to read, because the text is always white with a drop shadow.

The rest of the wallpaper colors make some sense. Using one of the muted blue backgrounds vibrancy will be easy on the eyes. Window toolbars and sidebars are kept plain and uniform with a subtle amount of the color of your choosing.

Click the Custom Colors button to choose your own.

And if you don’t like any of the 12 colors that the Mac has to offer, click the Custom Color button. Using the system Colors tool, choose any color to suit your preference. This is one of the handiest ways to customize the background of your desktop. On the one hand, it seems fussy to choose a custom color wallpaper, but if you don’t mind a very simple background, then vibrancy becomes a non-issue that still adds character to your Mac.

Your Mac is ringing!

At least 97% of Yosemite users will want to stop their Macs from ringing off the hook, am I right? I would enjoy taking calls on my MacBook or maybe on the rare occasion at my iMac, but I most certainly do not want them to ring every time I have a call.

Turn off the ringing Mac with the guide at OSXDaily.

How to Clean Install OS X Yosemite

I wouldn’t recommend everyone, or that even most people, should perform a clean OS X install these days, but my older iMac seems unusually sluggish. I’m eager to identify the cause. If I perform a clean install, and this Mac doesn’t appear to speed up in the slightest, then I’ve eliminated several of the possible causes.

If you think you might find yourself selling your Mac in the next year, or if you would simply enjoy the experience of a Mac that’s 'like new' for some other reason, then save this link.

(Via The Loop)

iPads Can’t Beat Macs

Jean-Louis Gassée at Quarts:

In earlier columns “The iPad Is a Tease” last April and “The Sweet Spot On Apple’s Racket” in August, I tried to separate the merits of the tablet genre, which I see as established and durable, from the unreasonable expectations that arose from the sense of liberation from PC obfuscation. If you see the tablet as a one-for-one replacement for a PC, you’ll be disappointed, and the falling iPad sales will look like an inevitable skid into obsolescence. I flirted with membership in that camp when I accused the iPad of being unsympathetic to “ambitious” users. (My column was “iPad and File Systems: Failure of Empathy“; in my defense, that was in early 2013—eons ago in tech time.)

I’ve since recanted. Instead of a hybrid product as promoted by Microsoft, the sweet spot in Apple’s business model seems to be a tablet and a laptop, each one used for what it does best, unencumbered by hybridization.

As CEO Tim Cook noted last week, Mac sales (laptops, mostly) grew 18% in the last reported quarter. This time, contrary to earlier expectations, it looks like the Mac is cannibalizing the iPad…not a bad “problem” to have. And it’s nothing like the evisceration of iPod sales after the iPhone was introduced. With the advent of the iPhone, the music player became an ingredient, it was no longer a standalone genre.

There will always be good and unique use cases for iPads, iPhones, Macs, and watches. But the market for each isn’t equal. Phones are the most handy. Macs are the most useful for professional content creation. iPads are perhaps the best for relaxation and passive Internet digestion. The watch could facilitate the individuals’ mindfulness.

Reminder: You Should Read MacStories and Buy Bartender

One of the e-newsletters I actually read is MacStories’. If you aren’t already a subscriber, shame on you. You don’t know what you’re missing out on.

In today’s issue, Graham Spencer wrote about one of MacStories Favorites: Bartender for Mac. This is also one of my favorite third party apps. It collects apps that overflow your Menu Bar and puts them into a drawer, of sorts, that you can open and close. Graham:

If you are anything like us, you probably have a lot of menu bar icons - perhaps an excessive amount. If you're using a small 11" or 13" MacBook it can quickly become a little ridiculous. That's where Bartender comes in handy: it lets you hide some of those menu bar icons so that you only see them when you want to. This is great for those apps that don't let you hide the menu bar icon or for those that you use only occasionally but don't want to completely remove.

Here’s the kicker: If you were subscribed to MacStories newsletter, you would have been offered a promo code for Bartender that gives readers 33% off the regular $15 price of the app.

Check. And. Marked.

If you thought that productivity apps were a small market of the App Store, or if you thought the reports that ‘to-do apps are in vogue’ was exaggerated, then take a look at this horrifying screenshot:

Those are all list-making apps, my friend. They are checkmarked icons — the whole lot of them. Are there duplicates in this collection? Maybe, but not many even if there are.

Two thoughts. 1) I’ve never heard of 98% of these. 2) people aren’t going to be very productive if they try much of any of them out, for review purposes, to discover which works best.

(Via @alexvanderzon)