New Laptop Time!

I’m fortunate to work at a great company that refreshes our laptops with new tech every couple of years, and today was MacBook Christmas for me: my new Touch Bar MacBook Pro showed up.

Whenever I do a laptop refresh, I choose to install everything new instead of using a system transfer, specifically so I can reevaluate what apps I use, whether there are other options available, and find new things in those apps’ settings that I might not have seen before.

As part of this process, I’m going to do a series of blog posts showcasing the apps I use on a regular basis and explaining why I choose to use them and how they fit into my personal workflows.

Once I have them going, I’ll post a link to the archives here, but if you’d like to know when I post them, feel free to follow my blog. :)

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Getting Things Done

Last week, I splurged and bought an Apple Watch. I’m writing out some thoughts about it for a longer post in a month or two, but I have to say that I love the progress-tracking aspects of it as someone who sometimes struggles with organizing his day properly.

It feels great when my default watch face has closed circles all around the bottom:

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The left one is for Activity, which I manage to fill on days I go to the gym (and not so much on days I don’t). I won’t lie; I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I finish that last standing goal and the watch pings me with this:

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And the app and complication for Things (in the lower-right) have somewhat resurrected my use of the Things as a platform. I’m now organizing the things I have to do and scheduling things like ticket follow-ups and daily mundanity that just needs to get done. Again, it feels great when I tick off that last to-do:

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The other benefits of the watch so far have mostly been a lot less glancing at my phone throughout the day. My early take on it is that doing that alone has made it worth the investment.

I’ll write more another time.

“Intention”

I have no idea if this is true or not (I suspect it is), but this video from Apple regarding their design philosophy is a beautiful thing.

And the music is perfect.

The Computer in Your Pocket

“So, as of this week, we have computing performance in our pants pockets that nine years ago required a professional desktop workstation.”

— John Gruber, in his review of the iPhone 5

If I stop to think about all the things I am able to do with this tiny little device I carry with me everywhere and how I would explain that to 7-year-old me, I’m sure small me would think I had just described something straight of of the then-newly-premiered Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Apple IDs and Passwords in Plain Text

Lex Friedman for Macworld has a report on the in-app purchases hack that’s been circulating. The most amazing part:

iOS users who try the hack may find that, in addition to robbing the developers behind apps that they enjoy, they’ve put themselves at risk. “I can see the Apple ID and password,” for accounts that try the hack, Borodin told Macworld. “But not the credit card information.” Borodin said that he was “shocked” that passwords were passed in plain text and not encrypted.

According to Tabini, though, “Apple presumes it’s talking to its own server with a valid security certificate.” But that was clearly a mistake—“This is entirely Apple’s fault,” Tabini added.

Anyone who has done this is fortunate that the first person who found the hack seems to be a pretty nice guy.

And this being the case is shocking.

“Progress”

John Carey:

I can’t help but dwell heavily on impending high resolution displays that could be entering the market. After reading an article containing some basic projections on the future of high density displays in mac products I cringed to imagine that my 5D images would not be a high enough resolution to fill the screen on an iMac with a retina display. In fact, the 27″ model could potentially use an only slightly smaller resolution than a full raw file from a 5D Mark III. That is pretty insane to imagine.

He has some great thoughts on Retina display resolutions, the possible advancing of the Megapixel Myth, and other implications of switching to high-density displays that perhaps you haven’t considered yet.

So much talk is focused on how awesome the technology is (and it is), but there are some interesting practicality concerns, especially if next year sees the release of 27″-ish high-density displays.

Personally, I think the biggest gains are in UI and text applications, and that it’s going to be hard for images to catch up, much as watching SD television on HD sets early in the life of HDTV was really awful.

3DS, Vita, and Value Propositions

SlashGear in proclaiming the death of the 3DS:

Unlike its predecessors, the 3DS is facing a slew of issues. For one, the 3D effect falls short for many folks, and after a while, it becomes more like a gimmick than an integral part of the gaming experience. What’s more, the 3DS’ lack of compelling games (which Nintendo says, will be addressed by the end of this year, thanks to Super Mario 3D Land), is holding it back.

But I think it goes beyond that. The 3DS is failing right now, more than any other reason, because of smartphones and tablets offering compelling gaming experiences. And when the iPhone 5 launches in the next several weeks, you can expect it to officially kill off the 3DS.

This isn’t the only thing I’ve read discussing the quandary that Nintendo finds itself in. Example: Tycho in yesterday’s Penny Arcade post, discussing the battery life of the upcoming PlayStation Vita:

This isn’t just true of the Vita, of course, this battery stuff; if anyone actually played their 3DS for any length of time, I suspect they’d come away similarly despondent, pressing buttons which don’t do anything and looking at a screen which is connected to nothing.

This is that “portability” thing when we talk about a “portable” gaming system.  Portability means more than the ability to carry something or stow it on your person.  Obviously, the word doesn’t mean that – it’s not bound up in the roots.  But the implication is that something may be carried and still retain its function.  Right?  Right.  This isn’t really a philosophical distinction, it’s not hair-splitting for dialectic giggles.  A portable without robust power storage is not.

Handheld gaming is facing tough challenges on multiple fronts at the moment. I’m increasingly finding myself choosing to play portable games on my iPhone or iPad. I’ll go so far as to know I’m going out somewhere where I will have time, look at my DS, pick it up, and then put it back down as I decide it’s not worth the time.

The PSP was arguably always a failure; it failed to capture a solid market and was a product that never seemed to find decent footing. But the DS was one of the most successful game consoles in history, with a ridiculous sell-through and a strong appeal to the casual market as well as great long-form experiences (it’s a great platform to find quality JRPG experiences and 2d platformers). Nintendo sold through no less than four revisions of basically the same hardware—which I believe is also contributing to the market resistance to the 3DS.

Satoru Iwata believes the 3DS has a future, at least officially in response to calls for Nintendo to embrace smartphone development:

“This is absolutely not under consideration,” he said. “If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo. Having a hardware development team in-house is a major strength. It’s the duty of management to make use of those strengths.

“It’s probably the correct decision in the sense that the moment we started to release games on smartphones we’d make profits. However, I believe my responsibility is not to short-term profits, but to Nintendo’s mid- and long-term competitive strength.”

Keep in mind that this is after the Nintendo showcase at TGS, traditionally their marquee event, caused a market reaction that sent Nintendo’s stock tumbling 5%.

For me, it boils down to the following: for $40, I can have this copy of a remake (a remake!) of perhaps the best game of all time:

For about 60 bucks (not counting buying things on sale), I can have this:

And I don’t have to go to a GameStop or similarly annoying store to buy them; I just load up the App Store, make the purchase, and download it. Some of the games on this list have provided me with longer experiences than many DS games, and certainly a better value proposition in the long-term.

This doesn’t even approach the added value of the iPad being my salvation from airplane movie selections (look; an entire TV season in my backpack!), or the fact that I do a majority of my web reading on this device (I found the articles linked in this post using various apps on my iPad). Or the fact that the same experiences are available on the phone I already have with me anyway, or that both devices have at least double the battery life (in the case of iPad, more like triple or better).

There’s a value train that left the station a while back, and Nintendo is not on board. I love Nintendo and the minds they have there designing interactive experiences. Their games were a special part of my childhood. I don’t want them to fail, and I don’t want to miss out on what they are doing (which will likely lead to my purchasing whatever the rev 2 hardware is for 3DS).

Sony finds themselves in a similar situation; an over-designed piece of hardware that will likely have compelling games but a like pricing structure and comparable challenges ahead. The Vita is sure to be impressive and looks good on paper.

But unfortunately for both those companies my money is better spent on iOS.

Steve Jobs and Industry Innovation

Guy English on what Steve Jobs’ retiring means not just for Apple but for an entire industry:

There’s been a lot written about Steve leaving Apple. I’m more concerned about Steve leaving the industry. Apple being the best player on the field is different than Apple being the player every other player wants to be. Steve inspired his competitors.

The Jobsian Apple of the last fifteen years has been a leader in challenging the status quo. I hope Tim Cook and the Apple culture will continue to do that, but if they don’t, who will be the next disruptor of an often lethargic industry?

Tell Front Row to Stop Interrupting You

If you use a Mac, there is a high likelihood that you have, at least once when switching applications using ⌘-Tab, accidentally hit ⌘-Esc instead. This causes your computer to pause for a bit, interrupt what you’re doing, and enter Front Row.

I have never used nor do I really care about Front Row. I’ve even managed to kernel panic my laptop once by invoking it and then trying to get out of it too quickly.

After a conversation with Andrew at work mutually expressing our hatred for that little “feature,” I was bothered enough to try and find a way to stop it from happening. It turns out that it’s a pretty easy thing to do, really.

Fire up System Preferences. You can find it in the Apple menu, in your Dock in a default setup, or in the Applications folder.

Click on the Keyboard preferences panel. Click the tab marked Keyboard Shortcuts.

In the list of applications to the left, select Front Row. You’ll see a list of—or really, the only—keyboard shortcut in use by Front Row, and that’s the one that brings it up when you don’t want it. Untick the box for “Hide and show Front Row” and then close your way out of System Preferences.

Now, hammer that key combination a few times to prove to yourself that the demons have been exorcised. It’s OK, because nothing will happen.

Mildly annoying problem, super-simple fix.