Archive for August 2008
Wow, Palin says “nukuler” too. Wow.

How to draw beer

And by "draw", I mean illustrate.

LazyWeb Request: iPhone Power Miser

Given how pathetic the new iPhone 3G’s battery life is, and given that Apple recommends you essentially castrate your device in order to get more hours out of it, I have an idea for an app that would make the castration process both quicker and easily reversible:

An app that sits on your home screen and does nothing but turn a set of things on and off.

The app doesn’t even need to launch. Press it once and Bluetooth, Wifi, 3G, Location Services, and Push email all turn on. Press it again and they all turn off. Simple. Perhaps there are even three states to the button where the middle state is configurable.

With the above app, the process of going from power-sucking battery-hog to power-conserving battery-miser would take one-click.

Without the above app, here’s what it takes:

  1. Click on Settings
  2. Click on wifi
  3. Slide wifi slider to off
  4. Click on Settings Back button
  5. Click on Fetch New Data
  6. Slide Push slider to off
  7. Click on Settings Back button
  8. Click on General
  9. Slide Location Services slider to off
  10. Click on Bluetooth
  11. Slide Bluetooth slider to off
  12. Click on General Back button
  13. Click on Network
  14. Slide Enable 3G slider to off
  15. Click Home button to get back to main screen

15 steps! That is crazy.

I wouldn’t even might having my iPhone in conserve mode 90% of the time if it were easy to switch out on demand, but it isn’t. I’m not sure if iPhone developers have access to system settings like this, but if they do, this would make a great app. If not, it would also make a great app… Apple!

Design Signatures

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last month designing a new blog that I’ll be launching soon, and in doing so, I’ve become aware of some design and coding habits which, when put together, clearly compromise a bit of a “design signature”. If you’ve designed more than five sites in your site, you likely have a design signature too, although it’s probably different than most other designers and coders you know. You may not even know you have it, but you do.

Here’s part of what makes up my design signature:

  • I start with a CSS reset
  • For column layouts, I float every column (usually left but sometimes both left and right)
  • I use the clearfix class to clear all of my containers
  • I use dotted underlines for body-copy links that change to solid underlines on hover, and no underlines for links that appear within navigational lists
  • I use desaturated colors for visited links
  • I employ fixed-width centered layouts using a container div, auto margins, and a center text-align on the body

I almost can’t even think about producing a page template until all of these elements are in place, and no design would feel right to me without them. Additionally, I know the browser implications of them so well that I scarcely have to even test in IE anymore.

Do you have any design signatures of your own? If so, what are they and how do they affect your work?

The Best Chips in the World

At the risk of turning this into an all food-recommendation blog, my girlfriend found the best potato chips ever at the store the other day. They are called Flat Earth Baked Fruit Crisps and they are the best thing since Sun Chips. In fact, they make Sun Chips taste like dirt.

The only flavor I’ve tried so far is Peach Mango Paradise and they taste like no other chip out there. Made of rice, potato, apple, peach, and mango, they are flavorful without being salty… a rarity for a chip. There’s also a half serving of fruit in every ounce and no trans fat.

Although I’ve only seen them so far at one store in Seattle (Thriftway), the Flat Earth folks have a handy store locator on their site in order to help you find a bag. Apparently, it’s a Frito Lay brand so it should be widely available.

These are game-changing chips. Seriously.

New pet peeve: When people on TV speak out a URL and say “forward slash”.

The First Ever Men's Uneven Bar Champion

Although I’m enjoying this year’s Olympics more than any since 1984 so far, it’s pretty obvious that gymnastics judging is at best, flawed beyond belief, and at worst, completely fixed. How these judges rationalize giving 8.8 scores to routines without any major flaws when their peers are giving 9.3s is beyond me. I’m looking at you, Argentinian judge.

Thankfully, we have world class athletes in our country breaking barriers outside the strong arm of the Beijing Olympic judging committee. Case in point, “buddysteve”, the first ever Men’s Uneven Bar World Champion who risks life, limb, and package in this video to prove to the world that the uneven bars is not just a women’s event. Go Steve:

Geothermal, The Holy Grail of Heating and Cooling

Good overview of geothermal HVAC systems.

Captive Audience

Photo by Sunny in L.A.

A full month after the release of the iPhone 3G, I still see lines of people outside of Apple Stores around Seattle waiting to get their hands on one. Although the new, lengthy activation process is a waste of time for customers, it sure is good advertising for Apple. Having lines out front of your store tends to make passers by curious, and curiosity often leads to attraction.

After two weeks with my iPhone 3G, however, I must admit that I’m not as happy as I was with the original iPhone. In fact, if my original iPhone didn’t have an annoyingly quiet earpiece and speakerphone (should have gotten it replaced during the one year warranty period), I probably would have returned the 3G model or not even upgraded to it in the first place.

Now, granted the original iPhone set probably the highest bar for any electronic device I’ve ever owned, but here is what is maddening about the 3G version:

  1. Battery, battery, battery. When Steve Jobs mentioned a year ago that battery life was keeping Apple from releasing a 3G version, he wasn’t kidding. Unfortunately, they released one anyway, and now even people like me who use a measly 5-20 minutes of talk time a day can barely go sunup to sundown on a single charge. It’s crippling and it’s frankly embarrassing, in my opinion.
  2. In order to mitigate the battery life issue, I have now turned off Location Services, Push email, wifi, and Bluetooth, as well as dimming the screen. It’s kind of like buying a Porsche and replacing the engine with a Hyundai to get better gas mileage. Pretty ridiculous.
  3. The 3G AT&T plans are more expensive, which sucks, but at least one can rationalize the data part by remembering that you are getting faster speeds. However, what explains 1500 text messages going from $6 to $15 a month??? Text messages? Ten cents a message as part of a plan is highway robbery. And considering most people won’t hit 1500 on the dot, it often times ends up being much more per message than that. Ok, it’s actually a penny a message.
  4. The shape of the phone has changed ever so subtly such that I can’t even use my original iPhone dock with it. Apple doesn’t include a dock with the iPhone 3G and charges $30 for their new “compatible” dock. This is an especially low blow.
  5. In my mind, neither the white model nor the black model look as nice as the old silver model and I don’t consider plastic an upgrade over metal.
  6. Location Services takes quite a long time to triangulate your location and often doesn’t work. I guess since I was forced to turn it off, I shouldn’t really care anyway.
  7. I live near downtown Seattle and a good portion of the time, I’m still on Edge.
  8. There’s a $18 “upgrade” fee for no apparent reason to switch phones.

In the end, I’d be willing to overlook every item on that list if it weren’t for the battery life issue. I’m not opposed to charging my phone every single night but when you have to think about charging it even during the day, that’s just poor product planning. I’d gladly accept an extra few millimeters in thickness if it meant a 50% bigger battery.

So in closing, I would say that if you already have a first generation iPhone you’re happy with, by all means stick with it. When the iPhone 3G Rev B comes out in several months and sports an acceptable battery, you’ll be happy you’re not stuck with the “old” 3G model.

Don’t fall into the early adopter trap with this particular product release. Sometimes we Apple fanboys are such a captive audience that we ignore the flaws of the items we purchase. And by sometimes, I of course mean always.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Inquirer will now delay the online publishing of many of their stories until their printed newspaper is already on people’s doorsteps.

This strikes me as the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard out of the news industry. Protect a product on the decline by making a product on the rise intentionally worse?

Mmmmkay.

Why not just shut your website down entirely so that the only way to get Inquirer content is by paying for a paper to be produced and delivered to you?

Shared
How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
The iPhone and Disruption: Five Years In:

Take your pick of about 20 great quotes from this Daring Fireball article. My personal favorite:

The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.

sirmitchell:

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

The precision and innovation that is required for space exploration just blows my mind. I did not realize that Curiosity will have to basically land on Mars completely unaided by man, but it’s so much more complicated than that.