by adam mathes · subscribe · RSS · archive
It feels very heavy but the screen is huge! Are they serious about these power and volume buttons because they are really difficult to press.
So light! Feels unresponsive compared to an iPhone, but you get to stare at a giant screen while you wait to see if your tap registered.
Best iPad ever. Get one.
New phone, new TV.
New Apple TV.
New toaster. (But all the microwaves are wrong.)
I like California ten times more than before now that I drive along 280. I get it in a way I never have.
Personal computers were called “personal” in contrast to their large, mainframe, shared resource predecessors.
But personal computers — desktop computers — are fundamentally impersonal. They are big, standard, functional objects we keep in rooms hidden away.
Smartphones and mobile devices are personal. At launch, Steve Jobs described the iPad as intimate.
We touch the devices themselves, not a separate “input” device. We carry them on our persons.
Mobile devices are personal, intimate, and used in public — the whole package matters. And therefore how these devices make us feel, and what these devices say about you to others matter.
All this adds up to a new reality where fashion matters to a degree the technology industry couldn’t have imagined a decade or two ago.
Wearables (watches, glasses, whatever else comes next) will be even more about fashion as these things will be even more a part of how we present ourselves to others.
And this is interesting because as the technology becomes “good enough” to meet the baseline needs as an industry we can’t justify upgrade on function alone. The rapid acceleration of upgrade cycles on mobile devices has made reinvention every year or two a stronger part of the development cycle, and that’s a huge part of what excites people.
People want the new styles. They want fashion in their technology.
Apple’s 5C launch seemed like a first (though not particularly effective) foray into this reality — repackaging the iPhone 5 into a more “fashionable” package rather than just marketing it as “last year’s model” seems like an interesting move.
This new intersection between technology and fashion combined with the quicker release cycle is probably going to yield a lot of interesting developments in hardware and software over the next few years.
My hope is that it becomes the “go to” platform for innovative hardware and software for dedicated PC gamers and early adopter tech hobbyists.
And keeping that market happy may be the key to its success.
The Dawn of 3D
When I was a teenager in the 90’s, the biggest breakthrough in entertainment technology (to me) was 3D hardware acceleration.
The difference between Quake and GLQuake (the first hardware accelerated game most people experienced) was huge. That switch from software rendering to having 3D acceleration brought PC gaming to a whole other level of realism.
And if you wanted to experience that you had to really be on the PC side. New hardware was released regularly, you could tinker with your PC and upgrade things, and all the best software was for DOS or Windows. Apple users didn’t really get the same experience. Nor did console users.
On the console side, 3D acceleration was also drastically changing things (the N64 was released about when PC 3D acceleration became affordable in the last 90’s) but the cycle of hardware releases and innovation was much slower. If you wanted to be in the cutting edge, the PC was the place to see it.
The key insight there is that gaming drove purchases in the space — people wanted to experience better frame-rates, better resolution, better performance on the games they loved and were willing to pay for it.
Today, the console development cycles are even longer. And unlike in the past where console hardware differed significantly from general purpose computers and offered specialized capabilities (you couldn’t get 2D graphics on most PC’s in 1986 equivalent to a NES) they are basically computers in a box you connect to a TV with specialized software. There’s not the kind of magical gaming performance enhancements there were a few generations ago.
The PC ecosystem — which depended on both Microsoft and OEMs to cycle quickly to bring performance and innovation to market — is in trouble as the broader consumer market shifts their personal use to mobile devices. Businesses seem less excited about Microsoft upgrades that don’t seem to provide more value to companies or justify new hardware. Is your business really going to run better on Windows 8 than Windows 7? If anything, you’re probably more worried about productivity loss during upgrades now.
Meanwhile, the hobbyists and gamers who really love this stuff are helping Valve and Steam become a multi-billion dollar company.
It makes sense that Valve would try to decouple itself from a troubled ecosystem and bootstrap a new one for its best customers. It’s a smart move.
SteamOS’s success depends on creating an ecosystem that gets innovative hardware and software to consumers faster.
A big question is as new hardware like the Oculus Rift become generally available, what will be the best and most consumer friendly way to use it? If it’s “buy a SteamBox and plug it in and download supported games” then that’s a pretty compelling story. Especially compared to, buy one, struggle to get it working with a PC, cry, upgrade drivers, cry some more or wait a few years until XBox supports it.
Valve has the best and probably most profitable customers in the gaming space heavily using their system today. If they provide a new hardware platform for them to adopt that provides better experiences, faster hardware updates, and new capabilities beyond what consoles or PC’s do, those customers will probably be happy to adopt it over time as PC’s lose that technical advantage.
Bruce Schneier on subverting NSA surveillance:
My five tips suck. They are not things the average person can use. One of them is to use PGP [a data-encryption program]. But my mother can’t use PGP. Maybe some people who read your publication will use my tips, but most people won’t.
Basically, the average user is screwed. You can’t say “Don’t use Google”—that’s a useless piece of advice. Or “Don’t use Facebook,” because then you don’t talk to your friends, you don’t get invited to parties, you don’t get laid. It’s like libertarians saying “Don’t use credit cards”; it just doesn’t work in the real world.
The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.
There is a huge difference between market share of units and usage share. And it shouldn’t surprise anybody that it’s like that. Anybody that’s used both should not be surprised that that is the natural result. And that’s really important to us because we have never been about selling the most. We’re about selling the best and having the best experience and having the happiest customers.
Happy generally means using more. You know, you find something you like. You do it more. And so I think that has become even more the case over the last year.
Today I walked into a store and bought a pocketable handheld computer with a persistent network connection that has more power than desktop computers I spent the first two decades of my life using at a fraction of the cost.
The address of the old computer was automatically transferred to the new computer so everyone could continue contacting me the same way.
The computer learned my fingerprints and only unlocks itself when it sees mine, so others can’t use it without my permission.
After entering my login information, all of my applications, settings, and data began to download on the new computer, wirelessly.
And it comes with a built-in camera that takes better digital photographs than any pocket point and shoot camera I’ve owned, even in low light.
· · ·
Buying an Apple iPhone reminds how far we’ve come in computing in a very short time.
Because that’s what our generation aspires to: not slaying cyberdemons or reigning over Azeroth, but merely participating in materialism.
Previous technologies have expanded communication. But the last round may be contracting it. The eloquence of letters has turned into the unnuanced spareness of texts; the intimacy of phone conversations has turned into the missed signals of mobile phone chat. I think of that lost world, the way we lived before these new networking technologies, as having two poles: solitude and communion. The new chatter puts us somewhere in between, assuaging fears of being alone without risking real connection. It is a shallow between two deep zones, a safe spot between the dangers of contact with ourselves, with others.
If you had asked them, most of my high school teachers would have called me an unmotivated student or said that I lacked discipline and didn’t take learning seriously. And yet, that abandoned storage bin told another story: with the aid of my calculator, I’d crafted narratives, drawn storyboards, visualized foreign and familiar environments and coded them into existence. I’d learned two programming languages and developed an online network of support from experienced programmers. I’d honed heuristics for research and discovered workarounds when I ran into obstacles. I’d found outlets to share my creations and used feedback from others to revise and refine my work. The TI-83 Plus had helped me cultivate many of the overt and discrete habits of mind necessary for autonomous, self-directed learning. And even more, it did this without resorting to grades, rewards, or other extrinsic motivators that schools often use to coerce student engagement.
Phil Nichols, Go Ahead, Mess With Texas Instruments, Why educational technologies should be more like graphing calculators and less like iPads. An Object Lesson. The Atlantic
Great piece on TI graphing calculators ubiquity and programmability. Many future techies (including myself) had similar formative early programming experiences with them.
How do we repurpose the apparatus of constant connectivity into something useful for normal people instead of a tool for terrifying surveillance?
I have no idea but I’ve always wanted a social network that captured and compared my computer usage and presence in broad strokes.
Basically an ambient presence social network that measured things like:
- mouse movement
- network traffic
- processor/disk usage
All in broad metadata-only ways to give a very granular idea of “activity” and display that in realtime to your close friends. (Like an audioscrobbler, but for activity instead of music.)
ALSO: compare your typing/mousing/whatever over long periods of time to your friends. (Could be extended to do mobile analytics too, but would be tough technically, especially on iOS.)
A practical application is “when do you bug people” — don’t bug people when they are in a “flow state” based on the activity, bug them in a slump time. And be smart enough to even suggest based on historical data when that is — most people probably have daily routines.
The more nefarious application is as a “productivity monitor” but whatever, that’s boring and already exists.
Belowrez was featured in Fast Co Design today.
“Pixel art and low-resolution photography are authentically digital in a way that “lo-fi” filters simulating old analog cameras and film effects are not,” Mathes writes. “As technology and digital photography becomes ever-present in our lives and high-resolution displays reach the maximum level of what the human eye can view, pixel photography that exposes the underlying digital nature and representation becomes an artistic statement in itself.”