I have to say that one of the biggest changes in my lifetime, is the phenomenon of men wearing shorts. Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade. This is one of the worst changes, by far. It’s disgusting. To have to sit next to grown men on the subway in the summer, and they’re wearing shorts? It’s repulsive. They look ridiculous, like children, and I can’t take them seriously.
The Apple Watch launched almost two weeks ago, and brought with it the expected deluge of news, reviews and opinion pieces. A few articles and videos that stood out to me:
The Verge published a beautifully designed, extensive review that I didn’t bother to read – instead I watched their excellent video review. The bit at 3:12 gives a good impression why the Apple Watch probably isn’t a more social, less isolating technology:
John Gruber also posted an interesting review, describing his experiences on a more personal level than you would normally find on a tech blog. As a watch wearer he isn’t impressed with the Apple Watch’s capabilities for telling time, but considers the taptic engine and the new ways of communication enabled by that tactility a breakthrough feature.
Finally, my favorite piece was written by Jason Kottke, who didn’t actually review the watch, but makes this pertinent observation:
In the entire history of the world, if you make it easier for people to do something compelling, people don’t do that thing less: they’ll do it more. If you give people more food, they eat it. If you make it easier to get credit, people will use it. If you add another two lanes to a traffic-clogged highway, you get a larger traffic-clogged highway. And if you put a device on their wrist that makes it easier to communicate with friends, guess what? They’re going to use the shit out of it, potentially way more than they ever used their phones.
So much for the promise of Apple Watch unshackling us from the tyranny of notifications and distractions.
I like that the year 1999 was posited as the peak of human civilization in the world of the movie. I think there are probably a lot of people alive today who still believe 1999 was the peak of human civilization. I almost believe it myself, some days.
I guess I could easily believe that 1999 was the peak of human civilization on a day when I forget that iPhones, Netflix and pervasive broadband connectivity weren’t yet around back then.
An appreciation of cheap, off-brand smartphones and electronics:
I’ve been living happily in an electronics shitworld long enough that I’ve begun evangelizing for it. My last television, a Hisense pulled from the storeroom of a North Carolina Walmart by an employee who didn’t know it was there, is a simple and vibrant LED TV with bad sound. My stereo is built around an Insignia receiver (Best Buy house label) that powers speakers from a company called Micca ($55.60, 347 customer reviews, 4.7 stars) and it sounds… pretty good! My router is made by TP-LINK ($18.99, 575 customer reviews, 4.3 stars), and keeps me online about as reliably as my Netgear did. I bought my mother a neat little Baytek Bluetooth speaker for $26.99 (54 customer reviews, 4.6 stars), which she loves, even if its programmed voice draws out the “ess” in “Connected SuccESSSfully” in a way that suggests a strictly mechanical familiarity with English. I impulse-buy off-brand earbuds with mixed results and derive great satisfaction from discovering good ones.
I’m not quite ready to ditch the iPhone for a Shitphone, but the thought has at least already crossed my mind. And I definitely do that cheap earbuds thing, I lose them too often to spend much. There’s a peculiar quality in disposable things.
- I stand by my initial impression of the Apple Watch: Shiny, but I don’t see how it would be useful to me. Poor battery life remains a dealbreaker, and in that regard I’m far more impressed by the new Pebble Time, with its color e-ink screen. I’ll take another look at the Apple Watch when they release version two some time in 2016.
- The one thing that got me most excited at the initial Apple Watch reveal last year was force touch – pressure sensitive touch interactions which could expand the ways of interacting with touch screens. Back then I was already wondering whether we would see force touch coming to iPhones and iPads. Now that there’s a new Macbook with a force touch trackpad, as well as added support in the existing Macbook Pro line, I guess it’s safe to assume that force touch will also arrive on iPhone and iPad this year.
- Every once in a while, Apple introduces a new computer that seems like it comes from the future. Hugely impractical given the demands of our current times, but an early manifestation of what computers will inevitably look like in a few years time. The iMac was such a computer. The original Macbook Air was such a computer. The first Retina Macbook Pro was such a computer. The new Macbook, again, is such a computer. Using a laptop with just one USB port (a new kind of USB port that’s barely in use right now at that) seems like an exercise in frustration. You won’t be able to use your USB sticks, external harddrives, external displays, SD cards etc. without using a rather ridiculous (and rather expensive) adapter. I couldn’t imagine getting any work done on this machine. And yet, it’s easy to see where they are going with this. This isn’t a laptop for geeks or power users, but I believe it is meant for personal use: The kind of laptop that follows you to your couch, your kitchen table, your bed. The kind of laptop you use for Youtube and Facebook and maybe writing a paper for college once in a while. And for that kind of usage, its lack of ports matters very little. Sure, it will still prove frustrating and unnecessarily limiting from time to time, but in due time there will be plenty of USB Type C peripherals and infrastructure, and that’s probably when I will pick one up as well. Besides, I would be very surprised if the next iteration of the new Macbook won’t come with at least two USB Type C connectors. Until then I’ll make do with my Macbook Air just fine.
- Finally, that Apple TV announcement – rather disappointing, right? It almost seemed to me that they were teasing things to come, why else would they drag that HBO announcement into their big Apple Watch reveal? Maybe they didn’t get new hardware finished in time? Maybe the price drop is to clear inventory? We will see.
Following its earlier visionary sci-fi videos from 2009 and 2011, Microsoft released a new Productivity Future Vision video last month:
For comparison, here’s the video from 2011:
And here’s the one from 2009:
There is now a very real chance that most of our Twitter timelines will become nothing but screenshots of Medium articles that no one reads.
I’m not even arguing for increasing the 140 character limit, but if it’s possible to attach pictures and video, I don’t understand why you can’t attach text to a tweet.
Bethany Mota, Glozell Green and Hank Green, three popular Youtube stars whose channels have collectively more than 13 million subscribers, had the opportunity to interview President Obama after the 2015 State of the Union address. Many traditional media channels reacted negatively and often in a derogatory fashion, which prompted Hank Green to share his thoughts on this media reaction, capturing astutely the strenuous relationship between mainstream media and personal publishing:
There is nothing actually legitimate about Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) and young people know this. They don’t trust news organizations because news organizations have given them no reason to be trusting. These channels exist not to inform but to uphold the biases and values of particular ideologies. Ideologies and values, by the way, that very few young people embody. Even when they try to strike a balance, they do it by pitting different perspectives against each other in staged arguments. But neither perspective looks familiar to most people under the age of 40, so they just tune out.
The source of our legitimacy is the very different from their coiffed, Armani institutions. It springs instead (and I’m aware that I’m abandoning any modicum of modesty here) from honesty. In new media this is often called “authenticity” because our culture is too jaded to use a big fat word like “honesty” without our gallbladders clogging up, but that’s really what it is.
Glozell, Bethany and I don’t sit in fancy news studios surrounded by fifty thousand dollar cameras and polished metal and glass backdrops with inlayed 90-inch LCD screens. People trust us because we’ve spent years developing a relationship with them. We have been scrutinized and found not evil. Our legitimacy comes from honesty, not from cultural signals or institutions.
Invisible Boyfriend is an online service that provides “real-world and social proof that you’re in a relationship – even if you’re not – so you can get back to living life on your own terms” for $25 a month. Caitlin Dewey tried the service for the Washington Post. Unsurprisingly the service launched shortly before Valentine’s Day, which is of course by far the best time of the year to launch a service like this. There’s also a service for Invisible Girlfriends.
Justin Long has automated Tinder with Eigenfaces. The bot does all the swiping based on facial recognition training and even autonomously initiates and pursues conversations to a point were strong interest is indicated. In 48 hours the bot found 21 matches and made 4 extended conversations. Source on GitHub.
The Guardian put Google Glass on a couple of couples and watched them date. Strangely compelling.
“What I imagine my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends are doing right now“. And I thought I was driving myself crazy sometimes.
How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. Number 3 is really hard, but I can vouch that it works.
And finally, because the movie is currently tearing up the box office (I’ve already done my part contributing to its success), 50 Shades of Disney, courtesy of Cosmopolitan. Probably not quite safe for work.
The Phorm iPad mini case adds tactile feedback to your iPad’s virtual onscreen keyboard and can be turned on and off with a simple switch:
It’s impossible to tell how well this works without having tried it, but it looks intriguing nonetheless. Bringing tactile feedback to touchscreens used to be a rather popular topic in HCI research a few years back. Reminds me of Chris Harrison’s pneumatically actuated buttons.