Faruk At.eş


Archive for 2010

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iPhone Finder Regrets His ‘Mistake’ | Threat Level | Wired.com

Brian X. Chen and Kim Zetter did some investigative journalism and found the iPhone finder, who has a defense attorney doing his talking for him:

He has been working part time at a church-run community center giving swimming lessons to children and volunteered at a Chinese orphanage last year while he was enrolled in a study-abroad program.

“He also volunteers to assist his aunt and sister with fundraising for their work to provide medical care to orphans in Kenya,” his attorney says. “Brian is the kind of young man that any parent would be proud to have as their son.”

Thoughts on Flash

An open letter by Steve Jobs. The entire piece is full of great reasoning and explanations, but the closer really says it all:

Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

The Untold Story, And Its Untold Hint of the iPad

In this old Wired magazine article from January 2008, Fred Vogelstein—who had what seems to be unrivaled access to insider information from unnamed Apple (and AT&T?) employees in researching his piece—jotted down what seemed at the time to be a relatively insignificant detail (emphasis mine):

[In February 2005] Jobs delivered a three-part message to Cingular: Apple had the technology to build something truly revolutionary, "light-years ahead of anything else." Apple was prepared to consider an exclusive arrangement to get that deal done. But Apple was also prepared to buy wireless minutes wholesale and become a de facto carrier itself.

Jobs had reason to be confident. Apple's hardware engineers had spent about a year working on touchscreen technology for a tablet PC and had convinced him that they could build a similar interface for a phone.

Again, Vogelstein had an unprecedented level of access to details of the top secret project, so there's no reason to treat this as conjecture.

Now, was that "tablet PC" envisioned as the iPad that we have today? No, of course not. But it does show that Apple was planning on exploring touch-screen portable computers well before they took that technology to make a phone with it.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that Apple sees the iPad as anything other than their most significant product on the market today.

Speaking of the iPhone OS Apps Platform

Mike Rundle, originally a web designer, shares his feelings now as a developer of iPhone and iPad apps:

Using Xcode and Objective-C are not surefire ways to build decent iPhone apps, and using "meta-platforms" and other languages are not surefire ways to build crappy, non-Apple-like iPhone apps. Are they indicators about how much passion someone has for the iPhone platform and building quality iPhone user experiences? In my experience the answer is yes.

Non-Apple’s Mistake

Overall a great piece, but my favorite line is in the "Edit:" section:

A number of people linking here seem to think that I like Apple or forgive its sins (as if Apple needs my forgiveness.) This is a mistake. I loathe Apple products, and chafe under the straightjacket of their aesthetic whenever I use one. I simply happen to despise their competition that much more.

(via Alex Payne)

iPad: A Weekender for Cyclists

DL Byron reviews the iPad from a cyclist's perspective.

I own a Macbook Air and it’s my most favorite computer and the reason is the lightness and minimalism are liberating. The iPad is even more liberating.

Web Inspector Updates for WebKit Nightlies

Excellent upgrades to WebKit's already-great Web Inspector, including a new Timeline feature:

Imagine that you’ve optimized your site’s network interaction using the Resources Panel and tuned all of your JavaScript using profiler in the Scripts Panel. Still, there are operations that could be taking a considerable amount of CPU time such as parsing HTML, calculating styles, painting, and others that you don’t normally see. Some of these operations may happen when you don’t necessarily expect them to. Its easy to guess that assigning an element’s innerHTML to a string results in HTML snippet parsing, but changing other element properties may trigger style calculations you didn’t expect. Now there is a way to analyze that.

The League of Moveable Type

Moveable Type + gorgeous free, open-source fonts for @font-face use. The Web is starting to look more pretty every day.

The Man From Hollywood

Tyler Gaw created a Kinetic Type video using semantic markup and CSS3 Transitions, with minimal JavaScript. It's fantastic.

Screw The Web!

There are two topics I’d like to discuss in this article. While superficially they may seem only tangentially related, I liken them to two sides of the same coin. Let’s start with the heads side of this coin, an anthropomorphic cue that well befits the first topic.

The iPad and the Web.

Ignoring for a moment that it’s only available in the U.S. so far, the iPad is officially here, and if you're a designer, developer or content creator of any kind, you should be ecstatic and thrilled by its arrival.

As soon as the iPad was first announced by Apple earlier this year, well-respected technology writers—programmers with a penchant for open source software, in most cases—voiced their fears and frustrations about the product and the associated platform. It subconsciously scared them, as the iPad represented the first real computer that anyone could use, eroding their lifelong-built reputation as computer expert. As if using an iPad would already make anyone an expert, but I digress.

Despite these cries of concern, smart content creators and publishers alike were immediately excited. To them, the idea of there being a computing platform anyone could use simply represented great new opportunities.

Taking a step back to look at the computer industry as it was, prior to the iPad launch, we see three real platforms of significance: there is the highly ubiquitous Windows, with versions from XP to Windows 7 widely in use; then there is the Mac, with its famous Mac OS X and its ease of use that has attracted people from the Windows camp for years at increasing rates. Finally, we have the mobile platform, dominated in usage and popularity by the iPhone and iPod Touch but being represented by a wealth of different operating systems, interfaces and devices.

In this view of the industry Mac OS X led the pack in terms of ease of use, until the iPhone came out. Whilst based on the same core frameworks, the Native User Interface of the iPhone’s multitouch screen presented us all with an interface to a computer—small and limited in power, admittedly, but a computer nonetheless—that was even orders of magnitude easier to use than the Mac.

What’s happened now is that the iPad has taken the iPhone’s ease of use, and combined it with the “real computer” power and screen real estate of desktop PC’s and laptops. It sits comfortably in the middle between smartphone and desktop computer, but uncomfortably for people not ready to see these lifestyle changes that it represents, trickling into people’s lives.

Where the iPad sets itself apart, aside of the all-multitouch interface, is how it can perform 80% of the things that 80% of people use a computer for, yet the 20% of people that remain are complaining about the 20% of things the iPad doesn’t do, sometimes ignoring what it can do. I’m comparing it mostly to netbooks and lower-end laptops, as serious digital media work (Photoshop, for instance) is not what anyone was expecting to do on these cheaper devices. So why are people of all skill levels, of all ages and of all professions so excited about the iPad? It’s not that it does 80% of what people use a laptop or a desktop for; it’s how it does that 80% of those things. The key difference is User Experience.

I’ll put it you plainly: User Experience trumps everything.

Anyone remember the iPod? From day one, the iPod had fewer features than competing devices of the same breed, but the features it did have were done so exceptionally well that customers around the world were drawn to the device like moths to a flame. The moment the iPod hit the mainstream it became a runaway success, and to this day it remains a clear market leader in the field of portable music players.

Then, years later, came the iPhone which―for its third year in a row―leads the list in customer satisfaction by a huge margin. Again, people don't care about features as much as they care about ease of use and how enjoyable it is to use. It is in this aspect that Apple's products are noticeable winners, and over the past ten years more and more people have started to discover this.

Oh, and let’s not forget: people are also still buying iPods by the millions today.

So, you may wonder casually, what does any of this have to do with the web?

Again, I’ll put it plainly: the Web has shitty UX.

No, really. It does.

Let’s start with the fact that we have browsers. As in, multiple ones. Do we actually need multiple browsers? Well sure, having multiple browsers breeds innovation through competition. Then again, it has also stifled as much innovation through market share dominance by one single browser. Many people like to consider the Web as the “one true platform” because it is both extremely ubiquitous and interoperable. It is founded entirely on open standards, but here’s a question: if the Web were to be the “one true platform,” then what is the user's benefit to having multiple browsers to choose from? It means different features, but different features produce different experiences of the web. Having different experiences of the same thing is antithetical to the “one-ness” we all would like to consider the Web to be.

It's not even one platform anyway. We don't have “one Web” with equal, ubiquitous access for all. We have “the Web as experienced through IE6”, “the Web as experienced through Safari 4”, “the Web as experienced through Opera 10.5” and so on and so forth. There are a thousand browsers and browser versions out there, and the Web is a little bit different in all of them.

Oh, and then there's mobile. The mobile Web is an entirely different beast altogether, furthering this disconnect.

HTML, CSS and Javascript (note: not Flash) are the “one” true open standard when it comes to platforms; their ubiquity and portability means that any content meant for widespread distribution should be stored in either HTML, or in an XML-based format which is easily transformed into and repurposed as HTML. However, as a platform these three technologies offer only decent user experiences at best.

When did you last go to a site and went "wow, this is really awesome!" as you used it? Okay, so Mike Matas' new site did that for me, but only when I tried it on a fairly new iMac—on my MacBook Air—hardly a slouch of a machine—the experience was painfully slow.

Pictory is another fine example of a site that offers a great user experience, but to say it really comes alive like Mike’s site—for those moments where you wouldn't mind it to come alive, anyway—well… no, not really. For something that lives on an interactive medium, it’s a pretty static experience.

The performance of the technologies that make the Web is still embarrassing compared to an average desktop application or video game. At the recent SXSW conference, Cennydd Bowles called out for beautiful web design, wanting more truly great and engaging experiences that could merit the label “art” rather than just “website”. To this day, Mike Matas' site and Pictory are the only two examples I can think of that deserve this honor (and use only open standards; I've seen a couple of great Flash sites, but until Flash becomes an open standard I don’t feel right to include it[1]).

So screw the Web, for it is too limiting for us creators—be we designer or developer or content writer or otherwise—to build things that inspire and instill a sense of wonder in its audience. We should be thrilled by the iPad (and the new breed of similar devices soon to follow), because it offers us a chance to break free from our DOM-driven chains and CSS hackery and actually use a platform that’s designed from the ground up to deliver amazing user experiences.

The other side of the coin

There is a second reason we should embrace the iPad and similar. Offering a much richer User Experience is great, and seductively appealing to any passionate creator, but making something for both the iPad and the Web involves a lot of work. Crazy amounts of more work, if you do it right. So how are we supposed to make time for all that? After all, time is money—right?

Money, indeed. Speaking of which, did you know that the Web is used largely by a bunch of self-entitling freeloaders? People who strongly feel they should have access to all its content—the content we painstakingly create—for free? I bet that more than half of you reading this would, if honest with yourself, join me in acknowledging to belong to this group of people from time to time, here and there. We take the free content on the web for granted, so much so that we've collectively threatened multiple entire industries to go under and collapse under their own weight. Oh, sure, "they" just couldn't figure out how to make money from the Web. "They" were just doing it all wrong. "They" clung too hard to their old business models.

Newsflash: just because some of us can make a living from publishing our content for free on the web doesn't mean entire industries can do the same. The Web’s audience is the most reluctant audience ever to spend a penny, in part because we've been giving them tons of content for free all these years. Wikipedia, arguably one of the Internet's most valuable resources, has never charged anyone a dime for access to its content. The creation of its content may have been without (direct) costs, but keeping the site online has cost the organization fortunes. Countless of generous donations from readers and users alike have kept the site going for years now.

Again, though: not every site can survive solely on the generosity of its audience.

The Web is a tricky place for major industries to make money from, and its limiting user experience potential has undoubtedly played a part in this. After all, iTunes and the iPhone AppStore have proven without a shadow of a doubt that most people are perfectly happy to pay for content. We all know that it has cost someone time, effort and money to create something we like and want; it's not like we're really a bunch of freeloaders who never want to pay for goods and services. We just have a set of unwritten rules that determine whether or not we feel pushed across the threshold of paying for things:

  • How easy can I get it? (Easier is better; any friction in the process is a deterrent)
  • How easy can I pay for it? (Again, easier and faster is better, but trust is an issue that plays a role here, too)
  • How affordable is it? (cheaper is usually better, but too cheap makes us think it's also cheap in quality; it should feel very affordable for the quality you perceive to get)

There is another factor in play: getting it before paying for it. Humans love free stuff, even just free samples or “tasters,” if you will. If we can use something for a while before having to pay for it, so much the better.

Thinking of the Web right now? I hope so; you'd realize the glaring problem of how we've established a culture online wherein you get everything for free. Not just a sample, no; the whole shebang, right there in your browser. Only after fifteen years did people start to realize they were losing income elsewhere because of this, and then clumsily reacted in the utmost of knee-jerk reactions, asking “oh, could you pay us some money for that?”—after the user had already consumed the delectable content.

Given all of this, it is no wonder it's been so damn hard to make money off of content on the web. It's super-easy to get to (yay!), thus attracting tons of people, but it's not at all easy to pay for (boo!) and who the hell has really figured out what any of this is worth, anyway? What would you charge for the content of your blog or photo-site? Would you charge recurring fees, or pay-per-content chunk? And even if you have figured all that out, how do you make it easy enough for people to pay for it, and trustworthy enough that many people will pay for it? Pay walls that prevent the user from seeing the content until they first pay up are not a good solution; articles and pages online are not like groceries in the supermarket, nor is your entire site akin to being a car at the dealership. The Web just won't ever work that way; it was envisioned and created as an idealistic platform of information with equal and unequivocal access for all. That's admirable and beautiful in every way, but it kind of forgets about the concept of commerce and people's needs to make money and continue with their lives.

Fortunately, we now have the iPad, which has the potential to change an entire Web of non-paying people into customers who are all too eager and willing to pay even just a tiny sum here and there for the content they consume. The iPhone has whet their appetites, and the AppStore and Android marketplace have proven that people are really not freeloaders at all, but the small device screens and limited horsepower are no match for the sheer brilliant capabilities of what the iPad represents: a powerful platform of unparalleled user experiences, with an audience that will, once again, happily pay for content.

It's time to stop seeing the Web as the be-all, end-all platform because of its interoperability, and start accepting that multiple platforms and varying user experiences are more commercially viable.

  1. Flash, in principle, promises the best of both worlds: huge interoperability, and rich, powerful tools that easily enable us to create great user experiences. Sadly, in practice it turns out to be the opposite, getting us the worst of both worlds: a proprietary technology that suffers from some terrible user experience issues and isn’t even reliably interoperable.

Denial of expertise

Joe Clark eloquently nails it:

This was the weekend those of us with high standards lost their remaining residue of patience for ideologues who hyperbolize about open systems without actually creating something people want to use.

Experimenting with web fonts on the iPad

Important experimentation by the Typekit guys, finding some pretty egregious bugs (for an admittedly obscure—for now—use case):

Rendering multiple weights from a font family can cause Mobile Safari to crash, even when the individual font file sizes are small (<5k). In our testing, using two weights from a family caused Mobile Safari to crash on up to 50% of attempted page loads, and the crash rate seemed to increase as we increased the number of weights we added.

I hope Apple fixes this soon, I'd love to explore richer type for the iPad users (too).

iPad: Filling The Void You Never Thought You Had

While watching This Week in Tech/Google just now, Gina Trapani made a remark during the opening discussions on the iPad's place in the market that stood out to me:

I don't ever go, "Gosh, I wish I had a tablet right now."

I could be wrong, but I am highly skeptical that people went "Gosh, I wish I had a phone that could let all my friends know where I'm at and help get me a free beer at this pub which I'll enjoy while watching a movie in my palm," before they wound up doing just that with their iPhone.

People don't always know what they miss in their lives until they lose something they have; whether it's a loved one (shout-out in support of Leah and Bob) or their job, a phone or their house. Humans have a strong capacity to see what the addition of something in their lives would mean, but a hard time imagining something that isn't there.

Whenever there is a clear void in people's lives, something they can easily notice and observe being missing right now, it usually doesn't take too long for a company to come in and offer a product or service to fill that void. And the longer it takes for a company to do so, the more and more people will start to want something in that space.

The iPad isn't about delivering on what people want; it's simply saying "Hey, we've done that mouse-and-keyboard thing for some twenty five years now. We all know how to do it. Well here's a different way you could do it."

What makes Apple Apple is that they refused to release a different way of doing things to the world until they were confident that this different way was also a better way.

The tablet devices we've seen in the market so far have all been different, but rarely have they been better at any one single thing than an average desktop or laptop computer. It certainly hasn't been the case that a tablet hit the market that was better at almost everything—until now, anyway.

What the iPad means to a lot of people already is a first-hand experience at something they never knew they wanted, something they never knew they were missing in their lives, but once they saw it, it became something they could see being part of their life. How big a part will vary from person to person—for some, it'll be not at all.

Now, to be clear, I wrote all this not having seen or touched an iPad in person yet, ever, but I already know what it will mean to me once I get mine: it'll mean that everything I thought I knew I now have to unlearn, and then learn something entirely brand new.

The iPad's promise is that I'll enjoy every minute of it.

Tweet

Typefaces got copyright protection in 1916, women the right to vote in 1918 (UK). Typefaces were represented by law before women were.

Twittered by @KuraFire on Saturday, April 3rd, 2010.

iPad Is The Future

Jesus Diaz gets it:

The problem is that the desktop metaphor is not good enough. Despite its relative ease of use, most people still find computers difficult to use. Now, if you actually like computers, you probably don't sense much of a struggle when managing Mac OS X or Windows. But watching some of your friends and family will make it painfully obvious: Most people are still baffled by conventions that many of us take for granted.


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