The Ranting Wren The Wren Forum Banner
The Glorious Wren The Movie Wren The Photo Wren Old Man Wren

Exit ArchiveArchive for the "Gadgets" Category
Permalink Comments Off on First Picture I’ve Taken with the iPhone 4Comments Off on First Picture I’ve Taken with the iPhone 4 By

Just look at that! Sweetness. (Click to see full size.)

UPDATE: Oops. Thanks to a WordPress re-install, upgrade, and old backup, I have lost this picture entirely. I’m very sorry. It was very nice. If I find the file somewhere, I’ll post it back here for you.

Permalink Comments Off on An iPad ComethComments Off on An iPad Cometh By

I got my 3G iPad on Friday, and it’s been a lot of fun this weekend. Though really I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping so far to make up for last week’s VZW shoot. I’ve also spent the last few hours getting my act together by re-doing my Aperture library, hoping to use it for all my photo imports. These two shots were tweaked and exported from Aperture.

I’m also posting this from the iPad WordPress app (it could use a lot of work—getting links in is a manual affair, for instance, and pics are only inserted at the end, which requires cutting and pasting the code to where you need it) and using a Bluetooth keyboard. All right in front of my Mac Pro. Silly, but why the flying hell not? I got the photos to my iPad using Pastebot, which is a kick-ass app. It’s made for the iPhone, but it’s working just fine from the iPad as well.

UPDATE: Well, posting images form the WordPress iPad app is also a bit wonky in how it names pictures. So I trashed the files and uploaded them with decent names. And links to bigger versions. Well, so much for that!

Permalink Comments Off on An iPad TeasingComments Off on An iPad Teasing By

I got something very exciting in the mail today!

I sent some feedback to Apple regarding the new UI for QuickTime Player. Here’s what I had to say. Notice I didn’t once mention York Peppermint Patties. York! The Freshmaker!

* * * * * *

The new QuickTime Player X interface is very cool on the surface, but it has some unfortunate limitations when compared to QuickTime Player 7 that make it less useful. I find myself opening most of my movies in QuickTime Player 7 so that my video is not invaded by UI elements, and so I can use some of the features now missing in QuickTime Player X.

1) Putting the title bar and controls inside the movie frame is not very logical for a computer screen-based interface. This is not a TV or iPhone I’m using where the elements have no choice but to appear over the video. It’s a Mac, and as such is capable of a better, more useful, non-frustrating UI. I was able to see the entire frame of my movies in older QuickTime Player interfaces without cruft. Now, if I want to see the entire frame while paused or take a screen capture, I can’t without the controller and title bar littering the frame. If I want to go frame-by-frame through the video, I have to move the silly player control around to find out where it will be the least obtrusive. And if anything is in the top of the frame in my video, forget being able to see it through the title bar. Likewise, having the Trim bar inside the movie frame is ridiculous, doubly so because it can not be moved. If I need to see anything behind that trim bar, I’m out of luck. There is no reason other than “gloss and flash” to have the controls where they are in X.

2) I used to be able to use standard key strokes for multi-speed playback in either direction. The J, K, and L keys no longer work in QuickTime X. If there is a practical reason why they have gone missing, I can not think of one.

3) Doing away with the half-size (⌘0) and double-size (⌘2) shortcuts makes no sense. Cycling through sizes with ⌘- and ⌘+ is a nice addition, but it can also be like TVs that don’t let you get to the input you want right away, forcing you to cycle through every input until you get to the one you need. The current solution is a weaker choice. There’s no reason the older shortcuts and the newer shortcuts can’t both be available in the new player.

4) The fixed-size timeline slider is much more difficult to use than the older, variable-length slider. In long movies, it was easy to get finer control in the timeline by expanding the size of the QT window. But now, no matter how big the window is, the timeline slider remains the same size, and becomes fairly useless for fine-grain control on long videos.

5) The vanishing title bar means no more playing multiple movies at once and being able to tell which one is which with a quick title-bar glance. A small hindrance, but I point out that there was no such hindrance until it was created for QT Player X.

6) Rounded corners? Why? Just because all Mac windows have rounded corners? But video does not have rounded corners. If this is not putting the sow before the silk purse, I don’t know what is.

Nothing has been gained by making the changes I’ve mentioned. Not a thing. Having all controls on the outside of the video is common sense, and vastly improves on the human interface of QuickTime Player. Again, this is not a TV or iPhone I’m using for watching video, and so there’s no need to make the video window behave as such. If you are really hot to have the controls and frame vanish automatically during playback, the same thing can be accomplished with controls outside the frame and a simple preference option to let users choose to turn that behavior off if they want to. A keyboard shortcut can be added, too, so we may make the controls appear and reappear at will if we choose. It seems to me, however, that the vanishing controls are only necessary because of the unfortunate addition of intra-frame controls. Hmmm!

Apple has set the standard for good, logical design and UI for decades, with certain exceptions, of course. Hockey puck mouse, anyone? Sadly, QuickTime Player X trades usability for coolness, and it just doesn’t work.

Thanks for reading!

Permalink Comments Off on Nature and TechnologyComments Off on Nature and Technology By

Red Flowers

I took my day-old iPhone 3G S out for a hike today, and had lots of fun testing out the camera. It’s pretty impressive for something on a “phone.” I use the quotes because, really, the iPhone is maybe only 10% phone.

I posted stuff live to Twitter during the hike. I’d send you to Twitpic to see how they posted, but it’s really not worth the effort. There are no forward or back buttons on Twitpic (or Yfrog), so I’d have to post the individual link for each picture. No thanky.

But wonder awaits! I have a collection of full-res pictures and movies lovingly posted to Steve’s Snapshots for you to examine. Here’s a sample:

Being able to take that movie was pretty exciting. Not only did the butterfly behave, but I shot it with a phone! Well, okay, a 10% phone. Really, I shot it with a pocket Mac. (The movie in my gallery is larger.)

Go see the rest of the hike stuff now! Hurry! Before it’s too late!

Here it is:

My New iPhone 3G S

See actual glamor shots of the phone in my gallery.

I waited a whole day to order the phone following the WWDC keynote, mostly because my 3G works just fine, and also mostly because it was gonna cost me $499! But I ordered it anyway. Luckily, this week, AT&T gave the lower price, $299, to early adopters of the 3G. Whew.

Activation has not happened yet because, as usual, AT&T was “surprised by the response” (not an actual quote). Whatever. Guess I’ll have two iPhones for the day.

Permalink Comments Off on Soon, Only Not YetComments Off on Soon, Only Not Yet By

Oh, good! Something very funny from The Onion! This is priceless, and completely true. Oh, except the Sony logo on the wall. Not accurate! But who cares?

Well, how about that. Sony must have helped the Onion folks with this player. It doesn’t work. So click on this instead.

Permalink Comments Off on Daring iPhoneComments Off on Daring iPhone By

I enjoy this bit at Daring Fireball regarding the iPhone 3G.

“Let’s just say it up front: the iPhone is the greatest piece of consumer electronics that has ever been made.”

I really do not know if I can disagree with that, even playing devil’s advocate. I can find no angle to take. My iPhone is the most useful device I’ve ever had, and it’s brilliantly fun to use.

Permalink Comments Off on So Much for MicrofeldComments Off on So Much for Microfeld By

I was certainly enthusiastic about seeing more of those Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld ads. Yet once again, Microsoft crushes my mirth and destroys any hope of fun I was ready to have. Seinfeld is gone, and now we have this:

The Angel/Devil Get a Mac ad, while still being one of my favorites, is once again relevant in this regard: “Fun. We tried that once. It was nothing but pain and frustration.”

Daring Fireball, sans suprise, has fantastic insight into the Get a Mac ads and how these new I’m a PC ads merely reinforce the message of Apple’s own advertising. DF’s post also examines the high concept of having people portray computers (which I had talked about when the Angel/Devil ad first aired).

I can’t believe the Get a Mac ads have been running for over two years now. I wager the I’m a PC ads won’t last 6 months.

I am on my way to Australia later tonight. I’m flying first class. Yes, I used miles. To be honest, this has been one of the most exciting things about the trip… that I get to fly first class overseas! In the top of a 747! The 747 to me is the greatest passenger jet in the universe. It’s so iconic. Any other jet, you look at it and go, “It’s a jet.” A 747, you go, “It’s a 747!”

So I will be flying in the lap of luxury. I get to use the First Class International lounge before I board (I’m getting to the airport early so I can milk the hell out of that privilege); I’ll get a 47-course meal on the plane; my seat will lie flat for comfy comfy rest. Luxury, I tell you!

Here are two guys who are probably used to this kind of thing:

Click here for the high res version.

Now, you know I’m a fan of Apple and a huge UN-fan of Microsoft. Some of the Get a Mac ads are really great (for example). But I have to give props to Microsoft for this one. Well, not to Microsoft, but their ad agency. I was watching this on my iPhone, ironically, at the car wash this morning, and laughing out loud (LOL to you youngsters who can’t speak real English). There is a lot to like about this “ad.”

I’m not sure how effective these ads will be in making Microsoft appear less crappy a company with less crappy products, but at least it looks like we’re in for some really funny attempts at doing so.

So me, the lap of luxury. These two, slumming it. My, how our world has changed!

Permalink Comments Off on What a Concept!Comments Off on What a Concept! By

This morning, I tweeted about Microsoft’s Surface showing up very select at Sheraton hotels. It was this video that made me comment:

Besides being a bit creepy—is that woman wanting to slap the little boy, or seduce him?—the video is humorous in showing how minimally useful the Surface concept even is. I can do the things that table does on my iPhone, and I have that with me all the time.

Expanding ever so slightly on my tweet, I ask you, how long until the majority of those things break? How often will they cease to function? When will I first be able to walk into a Sheraton hotel and see a $10,000 table crashed or dark?

When Microsoft first announced the Surface just before the iPhone’s release last year, I started to write a post about how Apple’s products are cool, and Microsoft’s, when they actually release them, are only faux cool. Microsoft wants you to like their products and tries to tell you how awesome they are, but they always suck. Apple strongly suggests that their products are cool, and often they really are. They certainly are well designed, well engineered, well built, and well well well.

I never finished the post because I got busy, and not in the cool sense. But the idea still holds. Microsoft, in a desperate attempt to steal some of the thunder from the upcoming iPhone, announced a fairly crappy product which introduced nothing terribly state-of-the-art, promised to deliver it by the end of the year, then failed to do so.

Well, guess I’m sorta wrong. A few Surfaces have surfaced, it seems. But look at the Sheraton announcement carefully. Notice there’s no date mentioned. When are these tables going to be installed? They aren’t installed already or the press release would have said so. To take one small detail into question, why, pray tell, would guests want to create playlists on the table? For what purpose? To play where? Certainly not their iPod! And so on and so on.

Lo, with perfect timing, here comes Kontra to muse on the concept of why other companies do concepts, but Apple does not. He or she or it or they or them are and/or is absolutely correct. While concept products are interesting, they are often amusingly, ridiculously out of touch with the universe. Every concept car I’ve seen at car shows is laughable in its ignorance. I would never deny anyone the right to create a concept. What gets me is when it is hinted that this thing you are seeing is potentially viable. That astounding future technologies will emerge from this thing at which you are marveling or laughing. (Turns out Steve Jobs brought up the concept car problem in this Time article from 2005.)

Kontra is correct. Apple does not need to release concepts. They are in the business of making concepts reality. When I saw Steve-o unveil the iPhone at Macworld in 2007, part of what made it such a thrilling spectacle is knowing that this thing, this amazing chiclet of technology, was going to be real. I would be holding one in my hand in six months. That never, ever happens with concept products.

* * * * * *

What follows are the videos I originally included in my un-posted post.

See all the the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates appearance videos here.

And here’s a video from D5 with Gates showing off the Surface.

Thanks as always to Daring Fireball for leading me to good material.

Permalink Comments Off on ObsessionsComments Off on Obsessions By

I have not posted in a while, for which I apologize. I have been tweeting, and I have been writing a post every week over at the LFTI blog and not linking to them here, and for all that, again, I apologize. You see, I have been obsessed.

With what?

With the sitcom, for one. We are shooting our next “episode” this weekend, and we’ve been working very, very hard. I put episode in quotes because it’s not really an episode, it’s a series of shorts introducing our new character. But this is sort of secret, so don’t let anyone know. We’re keeping this new character and shorts series a surprise for our fans. If any of them make it here, then, by golly, they deserve to know this secret! Yeah, not many people read the LFTI blog, but by golly, they should. It is chock full of interesting info about our show, and it’s typically quite the funny read. This is not tooting my own horn, but… Well, yes, it is. It is tooting my own horn. But I am tooting it in tandem with the horns of Robb and Tanya, who also post regularly. They deserve the toots just as well as I, maybe even more so.

So, the sitcom. Yes. It is a beautiful, wonderful time suck. I feel my life is gaining meaning again by working on it. I sat on the floor two nights ago, for instance, cutting and shaping foam rubber to create a cowboy hat. It has to look like the Arby’s hat, you see. Why? That is one secret I shall not divulge here. That secret I will make you wait to discover in good time.

I feel so creative with the sitcom, so rewarded and so proud. These are results that both grow from and grow into obsession.

My second obsession, at least for the past few weeks, has been the iPhone. I have loved my iPhone somehow even before I owned it. I waited in line for hours to get one on June 29th last year. I have used it and, despite its few shortcomings, loved it for over a year now.

Then the 2.0 upgrade was announced, along with the new 3G version of the iPhone. It would be a month-long wait between the announcement at the having. Well, that day of having was last Friday, July 11. Since that day, my happy iPhone has been a completely new device. It’s like the tiny but sunny window you’ve been looking out of for a year was been suddenly replaced with a wall-sized picture window. Really. Just like that. But my old phone did not have three important new features: 3G, GPS, and 16GB of storage. Upgrading was not a necessity, it would be a luxury. I checked up on three stores over the weekend, all with huge lines that scared me away. I went back and forth in my head, knowing that my original iPhone was excellent, fine, perfectly great.

Today, on the way back to the office from a work show at Disneyland, I called the Glendale Apple Store. They had 16GB black iPhone 3Gs in stock, and the line was short. I made a detour, waited maybe 45 minutes in line, then after ten in the store, I had a new iPhone.

There was one thing, one incredibly geeky, ridiculous, silly thing that pushed me over the edge to get a phone now instead of waiting for the next version. I want to keep the original iPhone. I want to be able to pull it out years from now and show it off or even just touch it because it will be a device long-remembered for changing a small tidbit of the world. I much prefer the original iPhone feel and look to the new one. It has a much nicer heft, and the aluminum is so wonderful to hold. I would use it until I ran it into the ground. But that was just it! I did not want it to end up like my Newton, shattered and useless. I wanted a relatively cosmetically excellent specimen to enjoy for much longer. The only way to do that was to sacrifice my everyday enjoyment of it.

I am writing this now because the new phone is loading the backup from my old phone. I will love using the new phone, I will love it’s faster wireless speed and its GPS and its extra space. But it will not be an original iPhone.

I have yet another obsession, which is more long-lived, and that is dealing with rude people. Selfish people, people who do not have any consideration for others, and whose world extends beyond them only so much as it does to support and coddle them.

It was a great posting by a guy named Lance Arthur that, combining this topic of selfishness with an iPhone 3G line, that started me writing this post in the first place. Please go read it now.

I sympathize with this fellow for a few reasons, one being that he waited in a long, long line to upgrade his phone, like I did, and another being that he had a run-in with a schmuck that turned out for him as it would have for me (namely, with an illogical confrontation ending in lingering anger). It also seems he’s gay, which adds a sprig of parsley to the dish.

I have posted before about run-ins with inconsiderate neighbors, and the continuing saga of a majority number of drivers believing themselves to be the only ones on the road has got me flummoxed at record-high levels. New examples arrive in greater numbers every day of people who are so turned inward that I can’t imagine why we’re not all standing about, horrified at having to stare at their glistening innards. My own recent attempts to exact justice on these types only leave me flustered and angry, like Lance. Even the possibility of encountering idiocy and potential intervention create a dull but palpable stress. The very real potential of being kept awake at night by a dolthead next door who thinks talking loudly on their cell phone at three in the morning is acceptable social etiquette is enough to keep me from falling asleep in the first place.

Did I mention that drivers are even more insanely self-absorbed now than they were when I first moved out here? There’s the lady yesterday who, talking illegally on her phone and half-blocking a lane of traffic at a parking garage exit, gave me a look of “fuck you!” when I dared to honk and crowd her back into the garage. There’s the guy who darted from behind me into the lane on my right, which was ending in 100 feet, then shouted mean names at me through my window when I refused to slow down so that he could merge in front of me. Plus numerous other, similar examples. Somehow, these people become indignant when they are at all inconvenienced by having to work with others in their society.

You see how I obsess. Sure, no surprise there to anyone who frequents the Forum. But you see how the past couple weeks have been a double-whammy of obsession for me. I feel fairly overwhelmed with all this, yet I know, really, since my obsessions have kept me from getting sleep (see: right now), it’s less me being overwhelmed than being exhausted. I could use my obsession with the iPhone App Store to find a productivity app to keep me task-oriented and hyper-scheduled, allowing me to get more sleep… but oh so much more fun to download the daylight app that shows day, night, dusk, and dawn times and use that for our shoot this weekend…

Permalink Comments Off on The Garmin iPhoneComments Off on The Garmin iPhone By

So far, it seems only one company is close to releasing anything that has even the remotest possibility of being a competitor to the iPhone: Garmin. Its Nuvifone was announced a while ago, and since Garmin is big into GPS units, the GPS features of the Nuvifone were a huge selling point over the iPhone. Of course, now that the iPhone 3G includes GPS and, I’m guessing, much better nav maps, the Nuvifone’s GPS is no longer a unique feature.

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss. I want to specifically talk about how Apple has, in less than a year, completely defined how the touch interface on portable devices should work. The Mac set the standard that is still followed today (unless you’re using the nightmare Microsoft Office for Windows 2007), so we’ll see if the iPhone UI lasts as long.

Here is the Nuvifone in action (video is from Laptop Magazine):

Let’s go through this video and check for examples of the iPhone UI as copied by Garmin. (The Nuvifone in the video is not a production model, so who knows what may change by the time it’s on the market?)

0:07: The Garmin man is already comparing his product to the iPhone, saying “we have the same screens as the iPhone.” That’s probably not entirely accurate.

0:17–0:27: The Nuvifone uses the “fling” scroll with velocity slow-down and the all-important elastic stop. The genius of this design in the iPhone UI is that when at the very top or bottom of a list, if you try to scroll, it gives you a visual clue that your scroll was executed but that you are at the edge of the list. Imagine if there were no elasticity; you might try to scroll, but nothing happens. Does this mean you’re at the edge of a list, or that the scroll did not work? The ambiguity is gone with the elastic visual.

0:17–0:27: The narrow, disappearing scroll bars from the iPhone are here. Unlike using a cursor on a desktop, the scroll bars on an iPhone are merely there for reference, since the entire screen is scrollable. The bars appear when you start to drag your finger to scroll, then fade away when you remove your finger. No extra space is wasted on resilient scroll bars. The Garmin’s bars do not fade, they just vanish. The scroll bars in the Nuvifone do not look translucent, like the iPhone bars, but it’s hard to be sure on this video.

0:21: “It’s not a multiple touch screen, it’s a single-touch … including the scrolling function.” I assume this means no double-finger tap to zoom out, no pinching or spreading, none of the multi-touch features that make the iPhone UI utter fun to use.

0:36: Applications and widgets on the iPhone zoom in and out when launched or closed, but the Nuvifone uses a sliding transition. On the iPhone, the sliding “drills down” into lists and such, giving you a visual clue as to which way you are moving into and out of pages and lists. We can not tell from this video how the Nuvifone will handle such drill-downs.

1:30: Screen rotation was not invented for iPhone, but it sure was stepped up a notch. The Nuvifone screen rotation is orientation sensitive, but the graphical iris out transition is pretty low-rent. The iPhone could definitely benefit from using the landscape orientation mode in more places in the UI; however it’s not as good an idea to use it for the home screen as the Nuvifone does. Why? Because you want your launch buttons to always be in the same place to aid in motor memory. The home screen icons will be in different places if you rotate your home screen. You would also have to set up two sets of custom layouts. Not very easy to use. This is more of an issue for the iPhone home screen grid layout than it is for this Nuvifone sliding pane layout.

2:04: The Web browser “experience is very like iPhone Safari.” Without multi-touch? We shall see! Multitouch is the most useful tool when browsing the Web on an iPhone.

2:20: Ah, a keyboard demo! The Nuvifone’s keyboard slides up from the bottom of the screen, just like the iPhone’s. This is a pretty obvious behavior, whether it started on iPhone or not. The Nuviphone copies the iPhone pop-up letters when you type. I’ll be very curious to see how the predictive text works. The iPhone’s “reversed” predictive text set-up is fantastic, allowing you to continue typing as correct suggestions pop up and requiring you to stop typing only if you disagree with a suggestion.

2:27: “You can see there is no [sic] any button in the front panel. It’s even better than iPhone.” But no, it’s not. You’ll notice that there is no way to just get right back to your home screen on the Nuvifone without touching the arrow icon to back up through multiple “open” screens. (There could be a side button on the Nuvifone that accomplishes the same thing as iPhone’s home button, but I’m guessing that’s not going to be the case.)

3:13: Damn is that navigation/map app one ugly chicken! The ocean is DOS Blue. And those plus and minus buttons! Good UI design is hindered by bad graphical design.

3:36: That Home button in the navigation/map app… is it a sign of inconsistency, or maybe just a sign of an unfinished product? The return arrow icon we saw in the rest of the UI should be here instead. (Or, I guess you could argue, there should be a Home button everywhere else in the UI! Oh, wait, wouldn’t a physical button on the front be a great solution?)

4:32: Seems the screen has haptic feedback. The day the iPhone gets haptics will be a day I rejoice. There is no better way to improve the confirmation of a virtual button press than a physical event. Haptics on an iPhone will be complicated to include, though, when you consider the feedback will be different if you are touching and holding or touching and dragging. I obviously do not know how the Nuvifone will handle these situations, but I’m sure Apple is putting a lot of thought into that very thing. Assuming they are working on haptic feedback to begin with.

I think we will be seeing a lot more of this kind of borrowing in the smartphone field. Of all the interfaces and UIs from all other PDAs and phones, Apple’s is the most graceful, the best-looking, and, most importantly, the most thought-out. There’s a reason why the iPhone is such a pleasure to use. None of my other handheld devices have been nearly as fun and useful. Oh, except my Newton. I loved the Newton!

Permalink Comments Off on Otlet and the MundaneumComments Off on Otlet and the Mundaneum By

An article on The New York Times‘ site tells of a Belgian named Paul Otlet who, back in the ’30s, conceived of a network of “electric telescopes” that would allow people to connect, browse vast libraries of information, collaborate, join social networks, and other very modern-sounding stuff.

Otlet’s ideas were too vast to be realized in his own time, and the Nazis, of course, destroyed a lot of his work, but much of what he was thinking is present in our current Internet. The article says that Otlet would most likely have been overwhelmed at the Internet’s lack of organization and its “dumbness.” But you have to imagine he would be pleased as all get-out were he to watch me post this tidbit that anyone with the right device would be able to read, leading them to the original article about his ideas outlining this all over 80 years ago.

Permalink Comments Off on JoT: iPhone 911Comments Off on JoT: iPhone 911 By

This Joy of Tech made me laugh quite out loud! Quite yes! Quite funny! Please to take a look, quite.

My boss walked into my office today, saying, “I have a surprise for you!” “Are you being facetious?” I asked. “Maybe.”

He handed me this:

I think my reaction surprised him. “Oh, wow! This was my favorite mouse ever!” “Really?” I was not being facetious.

This, friends, is the Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II. According to Mactracker—an awesome, comprehensive app that gives info on every Apple product ever made—this mouse was included on all Macs from 1993 to 1998. It was only the third mouse design since the Mac’s introduction in 1984. My boss found this one locked in a cabinet in some conference room. It cleaned up really nice, and I plan to keep it.

I began using Macs when they showed up in my junior high school, though it took a long time for me to have one of my very own. Macs were too expensive, so my folks bought a IIe while I was in high school. (I first used a IIe and learned Apple Basic when I was in 4th grade.) I used my Apple IIe to write all my papers in college, but I loved every moment using the Macs at school to create flyers or newsletters or graphics.

I got my very own Mac, an LC III, in 1993. It had the new Apple Mouse II. When I started doing scientific illustration and page layout for books at Birkhäuser, the LC III was quickly replaced with a faster mac, a Quadra 610, that could better handle Illustrator and Aldus PageMaker. (Here’s one of the books I typeset. For some reason, I thought I had put my name on the copyright page. I usually did. Anyway, I want to go on record saying that nowadays, I would never stretch a font like I did in those black boxes!)

I did not upgrade my Mac until 1999, when I got a blue and white G3. I had already been living in L.A. and working for Disney for five years. I got the G3 literally weeks before the brand new G4 towers came out. It was my first introduction to immediate obsolescence.

I got my G3 less than a year after Apple had introduced the bondi blue iMac, the machine that began the rebirth of Apple and the Mac. Perhaps the most maligned thing about the new iMac was the mouse: it was round, which meant you could never tell, by feel alone, if you were holding it upright or not. My G3 came with one of these horrible mice, but I did not mind, because the machine still had an ADB port, which meant I could use my old Apple Mouse II. (I think this was the last Mac to have an ADB port. It was the first pro-level Mac to have USB.)

When I got my 12″ PowerBook in 2003, I could no longer use my Apple Mouse II. I still have not found a mouse I love as much.

The Apple Mouse II was perfect. That seems like a silly thing to say, because it had only one button, used a physical roller ball, and had no scroll wheel or scroll ball. But I consider it perfect anyway.

The mouse was low profile, which meant it sat in the curve of my hand without me having to bend my wrist backward to accommodate its bulk. The button end of the mouse was very shallow, down close to the desk surface, so I never had to strain my fingers up to rest on the button. My hand could relax comfortably. Most mice, especially today, have unnecessary bulk. They force the hand to arch up to unnatural heights, and the buttons are far off the desk, which pushes the fingers higher than is normal. The Apple Mouse II was shaped so that you could plonk your hand down, relaxed, on the desk, and the mouse would just happen to be there, in the cavity, ready to go.

The button had perfect tactility, which meant you could rest your finger(s) on the button comfortably without the button accidentally clicking. It also clicked at just the right pressure, so I never had to strain my fingers to press down. If a button clicks too easily, finger muscles get strained as you hold them aloft, trying not to click. When a button mechanism is too strong, the muscles have to strain harder to click.

The single button that covered the entire front of the mouse meant I could relax my hand in a natural position, even to the very right edge of the mouse, and still move and click with ease. A two-button mouse where the left button is the default button forces your wrist to rotate farther left and your index finger to angle more than is natural, then hold the pose the entire time you use the mouse. Most mice are designed with the buttons inset from the sides of the mouse, so even if you can rest your hand at the very edge, you have to move your finger to click. On the Apple II Mouse, you could just click any part of the front, and you were okay.

All these tiny little alterations, muscle movements, and position-holdings add up over the hours, and, in my experience, at the end of a long mousing day, they hurt. My right hand is sore every day using “better” mice. For sure, hands of different sizes and shapes may require different shapes of mice. A large hand still rests its fingers at the surface of a desk, so the low mouse button works well there. Perhaps stronger fingers would need stronger button clicking, and a wider hand a wider mouse to more comfortably grip, but overall, I posit that the Apple Mouse II was a perfect, average shape.

My current favorite mouse is the Wireless Mighty Mouse. Yes, also by Apple. I have used a number of other brands of mice, and none of them works as well (though the Logitech MX 300, now impossible to find, was pretty decent). With the Mighty Mouse, I get back the low profile and the low, borderless button. I swap my left and right clicking, so the right side of the mouse is my “left” click. This way, I only have to strain my hand or fingers occasionally to execute a “right” click. My hand can rest as it did using an Apple Mouse II. (I tried swapping button mapping on other mice, but for some reason, it didn’t work so well, mostly because the unclickable side border made it pointless.)

The down side of the Mighty Mouse is that I have to be very careful, and therefore strain my hand, to do a “click and pick up the mouse to move it before you unclick” maneuver. This is easy on most mice, but because the whole top of the Mighty Mouse is mostly one piece, the only place to grab and hold is the side-click buttons. I have to move my thumb up to the left side click button (because it does not naturally rest there), then sort of do a squeeze–hold while I click the main button, then do a cumbersome lift… Do you know how many times I accidentally squeeze too hard and bring up Exposé? And then suddenly I’m stuck, hand aloft, mid-click, with all my windows shrunken, and everything has to come to a halt while I repair the mess.

Another issue is the touch-sensitive button. I love the idea in theory, but you have to lift your fingers off the “left” click “button” to make the “right” click “button” work properly. If the mouse senses a touch on both sides, it does not execute a “right” click. This strain does get to my hand by the end of the day.

I could get into my issues with tracking sensitivity, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the Apple mice have the best tracking algorithmicity thingy I’ve used. Other mice are too sensitive and don’t get the acceleration right.

One could say that I simply like the Apple Mouse II because that’s what I got used to using. It seems a fair argument, but it doesn’t work here because I can just lay my hand down on my desk, let it relax, and see how it comes to rest. The Apple Mouse II fit right into that relaxed posture. I do not imagine other people’s hands lie in completely different ways than mine, all twisted to the left with fingers naturally hovering in the air and wrists bent backwards. Maybe I’m ignorant, or a fool. Or maybe it’s approaching 8:00 on a Friday night, and I’m here in my office writing a blog post about mice.

I have spent a lot of time at work testing mice, trying to find decent ones that haven’t been bastardized by forced progress and redesigned for redesign’s sake. It’s a constant battle. So seeing an old friend walk in the door was a great surprise and, perhaps pathetically, a happy one.

Permalink Comments Off on I’m Looking at You, SAP!Comments Off on I’m Looking at You, SAP! By

What’s the difference between an Apple app, a Google app, and your company’s app?

Take a look here and see for yourself!

Permalink Comments Off on A Fresh Apple from 1988Comments Off on A Fresh Apple from 1988 By

I love this. This is fantastic! Some guy bought an Apple IIc on eBay. The thing is that is had never, ever been opened. So he’s got some unboxing pictures up on Flickr.

Apple IIc Unboxing by dansays

While there are any number of unboxing pr0n pages out there, it was Apple’s gorgeous products and packaging that made the practice popular. I can safely say that the unboxing of a re-designed Zune is nothing nearly as exhilarating as the unboxing of something as ground-breaking and beautiful as the iPhone or the MacBook Air. (To aside: The new Zunes look pretty cool, but the instant you pick one up in your hand, you know it’s a piece of garbage.)

Robb, of sitcom fame, has an original 128K Macintosh computer, complete with carrying case. He brought this out at some party or other, and it got me thinking I should find myself one of those. There is nothing as iconic as that machine, what it meant for personal computing and the road it has led us all down. I have cursorily browsed eBay for a 128K Mac, but nothing serious has come of it.

Nothing serious will come of it. At least not for a while, thanks to money. I am, you see, currently awaiting the shipment of my brand new 2.8GHz 8-core Mac Pro. My awesome little 12″ PowerBook is nearly useless now for anything more than the simple things. My God, I bought it 5 years ago. So it was time to upgrade. I was waiting for the next round of laptop upgrades, but when the Air was announced, I decided I should go the other way and buy a machine that could kick some serious boo-tay. My new Mac Pro, when it arrives, will do just that.

I will keep my 12″ PB. Granted, I could get some decent money for it because the 12″ PB is still considered a treasure, it being so small in footprint. But I think I’ll keep it. It still works perfectly enough to take on trips if I need it, and I’m going to want to pull it out 20 years hence and go, “Gosh, this is still a strikingly nice machine!” I have told my mom to keep my blue-and-white G3 in decent shape, because that will be a perfect example of Apple’s translucent color period. I wish I still had my Apple IIe, but that is long, long, long gone. As dansays demonstrates, these old hunks of now-useless computer instill enough nostalgia in those of us who grew up with them that we now are willing to re-buy them just to have them sitting around!

Anyone got an unopened 128K somewhere?

Permalink Comments Off on Internet Explorer. Sigh.Comments Off on Internet Explorer. Sigh. By

Yes, I am about to upload my first post in a month, and it’s about Microsoft. Sorry, folks!

I am working on an intranet project at work. I am leading the design of the site… the actual graphics and look of the site. I have not yet decided if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I now have to manage designers instead of doing any design myself. It’s most likely a mix.

This morning, I met with the people who are coding our graphics into the actual site. For our banner, I gave them PNGs with transparency, and they were showing me how the PNGs all end up inside gray boxes. The transparency was not working, so something must be wrong with the graphics. Of course, what browser were they using? Yes, IE6 for Windows XP.

I spat out my thoughts on how inept Microsoft is, then had them open the site in Firefox on a Mac. The PNGs worked fine. More Microsoft bashing from me at that point. Thanks to Microsoft’s ineptitude at supporting standards not their own, we now have to go about designing the banner in a whole different way.

A lot of the Websites I read these days talk about the gradual decline of Microsoft’s power. Building an empire of mediocrity that’s stanchioned by backhandedness and deceit is building an empire that will fail. It just so happens that one site today is discussing IE8 and yet another new kink Microsoft is adding to their already cruddy browser.

The B-List: “Legacy”

While I would love to write paragraphs about this, I’ll let the subject lie for now. And I hope this will be the start of a new string of consistent posting from me. Happy 2008!

Permalink Comments Off on FryPhoneComments Off on FryPhone By

The iPhone went on sale Friday in the UK and Germany. I’m so happy for the people in those countries.

I never did post my full impressions of my iPhone, but you can be assured it is now an irreplacable part of my gadget life, along with my 160GB iPod Classic, my Canon G9, and my 12" PowerBook G4.

(If one of those things seems older than the others to you, then your astutity is to be celebrated. My loved 5G iPod and my less-loved SD9000 were stolen at the last sales meeting, so I have brand-new devices to replace those. My little PowerBook, though still in perfect shape and wonderfully behaved, is too slow and old to suit my needs any more. However, Apple will be coming out with some new laptops soon, and I need to keep waiting to see what those are before I buy a replacement.)

I mentioned that Stephen Fry, known for his acting and wit, wrote at length about his iPhone and his own history of mobile communication devices. (See my own personal cell phone/PDA ownership survey.) In Stephens’ new tech column for The Guardian, he summarizes some of my own thoughts and feelings on the iPhone and the swirl of love and vitriol surrounding it. Do read it.