Thursday, July 31st, 2014
It’s very easy to say that the App Store needs changes, but it’s harder to come up the actual problems. I think most of what has been said on the internet for the last few days is dead on wrong.
The last thing someone wants to look at after buying a $199 on contract phone is a huge page of editorial picks that prompt them to ask for more money. If you’re like me, you probably do most of your “shopping around” in the charts, looking through each category. I also use the “What’s New?” section and whatever nice curated sections they come out with, but a lot of people don’t like doing that second part.
You have to remember that consumers are force fed the majority of content they consume, and they have been lead to believe that charts are important, and so are numbers. Most are ignorant, and we can’t do anything about that. A lot of people won’t give something a chance until someone with better authority says to do so, and it has always been this way. Only recently did I buy a song last year that is starting to get lots of radio airplay now. I also got mocked by my brother and mother for liking a song by Imagine Dragons, who are now “huge fans”.
A lot of developers seem to think that Apple needs to appreciate their work more too, which I don’t agree with. If you want the spotlight, you have to have the same quality the bigger names apps do. You also have to be something more than a few thousand people would want. Vesper and Overcast are not popular just because of the names behind them, they’re popular because of their quality and ease of use.
Just only the other day did I see a developer promoting a picture based shopping list app that cut off every single word after like five characters. It looked great, but the execution was poor. There’s a lot of others out there who have been making apps for years, but have not made something that people can stand behind. Unread came to the RSS scene not only pretty late, but it’s trying to change how we use RSS feeds, by actually getting us to open them and read. CNN’s RSS feeds don’t work at all in Reeder, and some other sites are a nightmare to read through in that app, but I at least like that I can get headlines, mark as read, and move on. On the articles it does work on, it’s a pleasant experience, and there are things like turning on grayscale for images that I absolutely love.
It’s really hard to get people onboard with RSS feeds too. My dad loves StockTouch and Yahoo Weather, but he didn’t appreciate Flipboard. Heck, he even refuses to install Yahoo Mail and Gmail and uses Safari to access them. We’re talking about a guy who has a server and two computers in his office!
And what most of the people who are coming up with ideas to change the space forget is that a lot of these consumers are children and teenagers who won’t and can’t pay for the majority of paid apps.
There isn’t an App Store problem, there’s a consumer problem, and it’s really hard for us as individuals to deal with because they don’t want to listen to a minority of people who understand that free-to-play games are a bad thing. Regulations are a bad thing, but it’s the only way to fight companies who are willing to take advantage of the clueless.
Harsh, but there you go.
Sunday, July 13th, 2014
I checked out this app called Lenka yesterday. It’s so niche, but I love it. You can argue all you want about digital black and white, but then why do they still have black and white film when we have color? (By the way, I know it’s easier to develop) Anyway, it was fun!
Saturday, June 28th, 2014
I saw this post from a GoComics sponsored blog in Reeder the other day and found it utterly ridiculous.
The New York Post obviously hasn’t cared about comics in a few years. I don’t blame them. Garfield is pretty stale nowadays (the comic book series is amazingly great though), and FoxTrot moved to Sundays many years ago. You can’t keep throwing money at syndicates, and you can’t risk it on newer strips. You don’t have parents bringing home the huge Sunday paper home every weekend like mine used to do, so you don’t have five year olds coming across that treasure of a section either.
And even if you did, the comics these days are just too complex, and maybe a little obscene. They’re political, very true to life, and have big vocabulary. Of course there have always been comics that have been written for older audiences, but it’s now more common than ever.
Years and years ago I posted a note to one of my favorites. The Dallas Morning News had stopped carrying their strip for whatever reason. It surprised them because they had no idea they were even in our newspaper to begin with. There is so much disconnection between newspapers, publishers, and cartoonists in general that it doesn’t surprise me that the New York Post incident wasn’t on the radar until weeks later.
I’ve been reading Garfield online since 1997, and am very happy to now have all of my favorites easily accessible from my iPad. And it’s easier than ever now to jump into a new (to me) series, read past strips, and enjoy tomorrow’s. For me, as someone growing up reading comics, this is HUGE, and I wish everyone would see it this way instead of panicking that nobody reads newspapers anymore.
The audience who wants to read your work has been here all along, now you just need to figure out a way to continue bringing in profit from us. I honestly wouldn’t mind better eBooks that aren’t just straight copies of the printed version for instance. I have bought the majority of the Garfield books outside of the regular strips too. I know that doesn’t work with comics based on one huge storyline, but it would work for some. I’d probably buy a few games too as long as they’re good (and you’d probably reach new audiences through a medium like that).
Think outside the three panel for once!
Saturday, June 21st, 2014
The last time I went to the capital was around 2004. I still have my negatives from my Canon T70 that I’ll have to scan in someday. It used to be much easier to see from the freeway, but not so much now that there continues to be more and more buildings built around it.
This time around I focused on the actual building. There are lots and lots of portraits, charts, and statues that are interesting from a knowledge point-of-view, but don’t make great photography.
View from the Capital – A picture I took of the capital, with an overlay of the view out a window on one of the floors.
Here is the capital in its original shot:
These two shots are from the same trip. I edited them with an app called “Living Planet”. I didn’t think they were interesting shots on their own, but they’re pretty fun when warped like this.
The weird line in the middle is a small price to pay when you’re dealing with editing on mobile.
Friday, June 20th, 2014
I was one of those people who was also going to join in and say that Amazon Music wasn’t anything to praise, but the more that I use it, the more I feel like it caters to someone like myself. I tend not to buy music when it’s on the radio because I’m going to hear it everyday so there’s no point. It’s also the way I figure out whether I really like a song or not. Of course, there’s always exceptions I make, depending on whether I already own a few albums by the artist, or Amazon is offering the current album for $1.99-3.99 – When a digital song is more than a $1 a pop, you’re better off risking a $4 album buy if you like even three songs these days. My $15 gift cards from surveys go a long way because of those deals.
I think a lot of the criticism so far comes from people’s lack of understanding of who Amazon’s audience is. They obviously don’t want a bunch of 20 something’s getting onboard just for the music, because if you’re not spending money on Amazon.com in general, you’re useless to them. They aren’t giving you a student discounted membership just to watch videos and listen to music, they want you to buy textbooks, they want you to buy games, and they want you to use them as your one stop on getting whatever you need.
Amazon Music isn’t about meeting the demands of the younger crowd using their services, and for the reason being that they aren’t their main customers.
I enjoy services like Songza and iTunes Radio because they’re curated. I can open up the app and listen to something then and there. Spotify and Rdio want you, the user, to make the choice of what exactly you want to listen to. And 99% of the time when I open them, I have no idea what I want to listen to. So I end up playing the same playlists I made (in this case Spotify) years and years ago. If I’m going to do that, might as well stick to maintaining an iTunes library.
And so I do, but I don’t own most of my favorites still.
When you open up Amazon Music, it’s all familiar. None of this “Check out this new album by so and so,” junk that the other places present you. There are places where new music works well, and a streaming service isn’t it. Look at the top 100 songs on Spotify and you’ll see the majority of it not there. In the US, people want to stream the now, and not the going to be stars of tomorrow. There’s very few of us that appreciate the unknown, and there are outlets like Pitchfork and Hype Machine that are much better for it.
And it’s refreshing. There’s a little bit of the stuff from last year, and a little bit from many years back. It’s a welcome change from seeing new albums from a band I haven’t cared about in the last five years trying to make a comeback. Because honestly, they haven’t made a comeback unless they’re being played heavily on the radio first.
In the end, I’m mostly happy that I now have a way to save songs that I can listen to now, and easily buy later.
It’s definitely a lot better than their lame “Fire Phone” anyway. I’ve never seen people so excited about something, and then get so disappointed afterwards.
Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
The tech industry is still pretty much focused on what happened Monday at the annual Apple WWDC keynote – Well, what happened, and what was introduced. It was so entertaining this time around that most of us are watching it for the second and third time now. Like I saw posted somewhere else (And I agree), it was popcorn worthy, and much better than that movie I paid seven bucks to see over the weekend. The stuff they introduced was so WOW worthy!
And yes, I am looking through that Swift documentation they made available. Do I care that it makes it harder to develop cross-platform? Not really.
iOS 8 looks great. As a photographer, I’m excited for the more open camera options, and as a blogger/writer, I’m thrilled that I’m going to be able to use SwiftKey pretty soon. But, I’m most excited about being able to answer my calls and texts on my Mac, that and being able to work at my desk and then pick up the iPad and finish whatever on there.
Oh, and OS X Yosemite is gorgeous, with a few quirks. It is a little hard on the eyes for one thing, the Helvetica Neue needs to be bolder. The transparency also nauseated me, but a quick wallpaper change really helped with it. I’m really glad that it wasn’t as flat like a lot of mockups were making it, and I’m sure that the people who don’t currently like it will quickly settle in once the golden master comes out and applications are updated for it.
Looking forward to the new hardware to go alongside it all in the next announcement.
Saturday, May 31st, 2014
Often times when we take a picture with our smartphones, we share them instantly. Sometimes we want to post on Facebook, sometimes we want to post on Instagram, other times we need to send something to our notes for later reference.
So why isn’t it easier to do that?
I’ve been playing with VoiceSnap tonight. For me it’s great because I have a hard time reaching the camera button without my hands shaking. Being able to just say, “Take a picture,” and it doing so is great. But it made me think about how much this kind of integration with an app can go further.
Google’s take on this is making you buy a $1,000 piece of hardware that you wear on your face. The problem is that it’s not only out of price range for most of us, but it’s also just another device we have to deal with. Why not just use our phone instead and use similar ideas?
- “Add to Evernote notebook – Algebra II”
- “Post to Instagram – Sunset at the lake”
- “Add to Amazon wish list – Books”
- “Send text to Steve – Wish you were here!”
It keeps it human, it’s accessible, and best of all – transparent. You’re doing this out in the open with the device, and people know where it’s going.
Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
By the end of the week, pretty much every Apple/iOS related website is going to be talking about this new visual bookmarking app called Stache. As someone who was about to fork out some money for Pinboard, it really tempted me because it had the archiving feature without the yearly fees. It made more sense than using Evernote and wasting a few minutes every time I wanted to save something for later.
But once I started using it, it became apparent that it’s a pretty ugly way to manage bookmarks. There’s no way to organize your bookmarks once they’re in there, and while it lets you add tags, it doesn’t try to autofill them like Evernote, Vesper, and other apps do once you’ve established them.
It also relies too much on websites actually being beautiful, and if you’re doing a lot of research, and run across an article from 1997, the page is most likely going to look like it’s from 1997 still. In my case, some of my saved pages don’t even have pictures.
It’s an eyesore because of that, especially with all the ads.
Another thing is that while the URL scheme support is well appreciated, it combines both tags and full content searching. A huge hindsight that is even visible in their Mac App Store screenshots (It shows coffee brewing tips, with an article about entrepreneurs in the mix). The way I’m personally working around the problem is by adding hashtags (#) to the beginning of every tag I add.
You can’t even manage your descriptions and tags within the iOS app at the moment.
Overall, it takes less time to add and manage the bookmarks compared to my current Evernote setup (that I will now abandon), but I can tell that if I didn’t come up with a quick plan to deal with the limitations, it would easily get out of control within a few days of using it.
And it’s again, really ugly. If you’re going to save samples of really nice designs you like, a series of photographs, and art in general, it’s going to work very well for that. But websites with white backgrounds, heavy text, and ads galore are going to clash with the site information underneath the screenshot. I hope the next few updates work on making this less of a problem if nothing else.
The current price the Mac version is going for is $6.99, and it’s supposed to be going up after the introductory price. I really think it feels more like a beta rather than a real 1.0, and would recommend staying away from it. Likewise, the iOS version isn’t any better, and I’d wait for it to be 99 cents. If you don’t have a Mac, don’t even bother with this one.
Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Said someone on an Apple related message board thread. No one understood what was being said, so it got deleted. But I get it, and completely agree. He’s posted it again, yet people still aren’t getting it.
I’ve been using computers for 23 years now, and I was exposed to graphic programs, home modeling tools, and finance managers like Quicken. Of course I got to see the silly stuff like Microsoft Bob too. And because I saw those programs, I was able to appreciate the computer as a tool, and not just the front door to the internet. I spent a lot of time using Adobe’s PhotoDeluxe, then Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro, which ultimately lead me into the full-blown Adobe Creative Suite.
I also now manually manage my spending in a mobile app, and use Evernote pretty much everyday (In fact I was user number 183,587 and now they have over 100 million as of last week).
… And considering I render animation, it’s surprising how I haven’t had the need to upgrade to a quad core processor machine.
… No it isn’t, because spending an extra $2,000 to go that route isn’t beneficial to me at this point. I know the system requirements needed to do the stuff that I do use my machines for, and they are not that crazy. Modeling is not the part that pushes your GPU the most, it’s the compiling that does.
Limitations push you to think differently, and not about just tech, but everything in general. Finding solutions and workarounds are better than just giving in and buying the “better” product. If you let yourself do that, you’re never going to be happy with anything.
And a lot of people who do buy into technical specs are never happy. They don’t get that a quad core processor doesn’t make better software. It won’t make Netflix buffer any faster. It doesn’t make any gameplay any better than it would on a previous generation device. Most people find that a lot of games aren’t even optimized for these devices to begin with.
They also find that a lot of these devices actually lag more.
Why did you want a quad core processor again?
Books are to be read more than they’re to be appreciated for the type of binding, paper, and ink used. As they always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Likewise, don’t judge a device based on specifications alone, and actually take into account what you’re actually using your phone to begin with. Sometimes it’s better to keep what you already have.
Sunday, May 25th, 2014
I have lots and lots of notebooks, most of them I’ve used only a few pages, some of them I’ve never touched. And I’ve never felt guilty because I never spend a lot of money on them, but now they take up the majority of my desk drawers, and are piled up in my closet.
These last two years I’ve been pretty good about it though. I bought a set of two for a dollar, and have used pretty much every page back and front in the first one. I came this close to actually using the whole thing, which has never been the case in the last twenty plus years I’ve been at school.
And I continue to get better at it, and am now actively using two:
- The first one is a Field Notes knockoff I bought in a pack of four for three bucks at Wal-Mart. I took the idea of the Bullet Journal and tweaked it slightly to work in the 3.5 x 5.2 notebook (which I know isn’t doable for some people, but it works in my case). I typed up a few inserts to stick in the back of both sides of the covers for extra notes and a symbol guide, and left it at that. I’ve actually managed to get through the majority of my first tasks since.
- The second is my Evernote Moleskine I’ve just now got around to using. At this point I wish I’d have gotten the graph paper version because it makes for a better setup when you’re working with multiple mediums, but this’ll do until next time. On here, I’ve gone with dividing the book into sections – Table of Contents, Brainstorming, Storyboard (thumbnails) / Sketches, Scripts, and Extras. I’ll probably end up doing some more as I use it.
As for my actual writing. I’ve decided to keep it digital. I’m not very good with a pencil or pen when it comes to writing essays and general long form because I’m left handed and am subject to having lead and ink getting smeared all over my hands. For my blog here, I’ve actually learned of a cool Scrivener setup that I’ve now adopted. The writing experience is vastly better compared to just using the plain one in WordPress. Composition mode, which I’m using right now as I type this, is awesome.
It helps that my printer has a resizable feeder, and that I can just snap a picture of my pages with my phone. Seamless integration between analog and digital, yes please!