Comments Off (Just Like Everyone Else)

So, I’ve taken the decision to turn off comments on this site.

If you keep up with this sort of thing, you’ll have noticed that this is a growing trend, and was certainly the “hot topic” some time back (as usual I’ve waited too long to formulate my thoughts, and have missed the boat on this one). If you are interested, there is better and more complete discourse on this subject from Matt Gemmell, MG Siegler, and at MacStories, among others.

I don’t really want to re-tred old ground here by going over the points elequently made by those I have linked to, but it suffices to say, I’m not really interested in getting into the ‘religous war’ around whether blogs should have comments or not. Yes, I believe that 99.9% of all comments are total tripe (no, of course that doesn’t mean you, Mr/Mrs Sensible Person who always leaves thoughtful comments), and yes, I think that if you really want to share your opinion, there is nothing stopping you creating your own blog with awesome tools like Tumblr. But, for me, it’s really about owning every single detail of my site.

With comments on, it is effectively a blank space waiting to be filled with sentences of questionable merit. And yes, I know that makes it sound like I want to create my own soapbox, but, it’s my blog, so, is that not kind of the point? It’s not that I want to discourage the dialog that comments (could) create, I just think that dialog is better served via other means. A place where you have the stage to properly form your own opinions, not just stick them onto the bottom of some stuff that I have written. I am also aware that I can moderate the comments (and I have been, trust me), and while it is a pain, it is not my main motivation for doing this.

If you wish to respond, review or rip-apart anything I’ve said, please do so, I look forward to reading it. But when you do, I would encourage you to do so on your own blog. If not, then please contact me either via email or Twitter; information is on my About Page. Alternatively, if you want, you can comment on the link to the story when posted on Google+ (when I actually remember to post it there). Rest assured that any noteworthy responses will most likely be added to an updated version of the article.

So long, comments. We hardly knew ye.

…In which I belatedly thank Qotpa.com

I haven’t posted much recently, as I’ve been too busy pretending that I have a ‘life’. But a couple of weeks ago I was featured (? I’m unsure, that doesn’t feel like the right word to me, it was basically a short post mentioning this site, my weight, and my beard. I guess ‘featured’ will do), on Glasgow’s best video game site, Qotpa.com. They said some very nice things about me, of which I am extremely grateful. As such, they have the honour of being the first entry on the brand new ‘Recommended’ page. That sounds as if I’m only doing this because they said nice things, but I can assure you that my motives are wholly altruistic. They do great work over there, and I wish I could motiviate myself to post as much as they do (I’m much too busy playing the games they cover), though they do have a significantly higher head count than my one.

Anyway, if you are looking for a place to get your up-to-the-minute-video-game-news fix, I can ‘Recommend’ (what I did there, you see it?) them.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Qotpa.com is now more. I’ll leave the link here for sentimental value, and I’ll leave the ‘Recommended’ page up, but I guess it’ll just be blank until…it’s not.

10 Billion Android Market downloads and counting

According to this blogpost on the Official Google Blog, the Android Market has now passed 10 billion downloads.

Not to say that this isn’t impressive, especially with the fragmentation issues (not to mention the different forks of Android, some not even including the Android Market), but I would love to see how many of them were free apps. Not only that, but if these numbers also include apps that were downloaded and then returned. I suspect that they do.

Another point of interest, how much money have these downloads earned for developers?

The Kindle Fire – Not an iPad Competitor

Read Later

I was planning on writing something about the Kindle Fire around the time that the units were received (by the press at least), and the reviews started rolling in. You know, reviews like this and this, with staggering praise like:

“perfectly useable”

from Engadget, and:

“If you’re thinking about getting the Fire, you have to decide not just whether you want a tablet, but what kind of tablet you want. This isn’t an iPad-killer.”

from the excellent review on The Verge (speaking of, I highly recommend watching the video review).

My original point was going to be based around the fact that, while I believe the Kindle Fire will sell a very decent amount, at least partially due to the ‘Kindle’ name, I doubt that large quantities of people are going to consider or want the iPad, but then purchase the Fire. As has been said multiple times, in multiple places, there is no ‘tablet’ market, there is an iPad market, and people trying to ride on the coattails of it’s success. I would be loath to advise anyone to buy the Fire. If you want an e-reader, buy a Kindle, they are great. But, if you want a tablet, and can’t (for example) afford an iPad, my advice would be to save up for an iPad, rather than spend £200 on a worse device. It’s the same reason that I wouldn’t have recommended buying a TouchPad for £99. Put that £99 towards an iPad purchase if a tablet is really what you want, rather than investing in what looks to be dead technology.

However, I waited too long to formulate my thoughts, and by the time I had, the Fire release was effectively ‘old news’. That was until I read this article at Macrumors, regarding analyst’s belief that the Fire will instead cannabalise Android tablet sales, and may even boost iPad sales. Now, I know… It’s analysts. No. Wait. Come back. Trust me, I hate them as much as you do. But this time, it got me thinking.

As I said above, there is no tablet market, there is an iPad market. Tablets have been attempted before, but never succeded. This is because they never answered the question “Why do I need / want this?” The iPad answered that question; but there are still a number of people who, for whom, the tablet solves a problem or need, that they did not know they had. iPad sales numbers are huge, but they are hardly ubiqutious in the world. As Tim Cook stated at the ‘Let’s talk iPhone’ event, while the sales numbers are massive, and impressive, most of the market is still waiting to be convinced. I think the Kindle Fire will make a number of people realise that they want the best tablet, and therefore, purchase the iPad. Just as Reading List now shows people that saving pages to read offline is something they should always have been doing, allowing people to realise that they want the ‘best’ solution to this, and therefore flock to Instapaper, the Fire’s “perfectly useable” experience will whet the public’s appetite for a complete tablet experience, and push them towards the iPad.

Of course, I could be completely wrong, and the Fire could sell millions and millions, and over-take the iPad. Though I think it will be interesting to see the returns rates of the Fire, once people are actually able to use it, and compare it in real terms to their friend’s iPad, or the one they have used in the Apple Store.

The Best Point-and-Shoot is the one in your Pocket

What struck me reading through this article at Ars Technica, apart from the amazement that we can even compare a phone camera to those used by professional photographers, was just how poor the Samsung phone’s pictures looked in comparison. On every picture, the Samsung seemed out-of-place, as if it was only included just to have a non-Apple phone in the tests. It is these types of tests that show up spec sheet comparisons as the unhelpful markers I believe them to be.

‘Megapixels’ is the term that the manufacturers and PR people have latched on to as a way to sell cameras to the masses, just as the resolution of a TV (e.g. 1080i vs. 1080p) is now the de-facto standard in decision-making, whereas it is clear that they are not the be-all and end-all for determining the quality (or desirability) of a device.

While these Android phones, with their big shiny screens, may look good in the store, I wonder how many people are still really happy with them months after purchase. Or how many believe that there is truly nothing better.

Follow up to the WiFi switcher ‘problem’ – Icon Settings

Since my Feature Checking post, I have been sent the link to, and seen numerous times in my RSS feed, posts regarding the ‘Icon Settings’ from the iphoneza.co.za site as a solution to the problem I raised regarding quick access to the WiFi switcher.

However, while I appreciate the idea, I just can’t get on board with using this ‘hack’ for that very reason. It just feels way too ‘hacky’ for me. You tap the icon, which launches Safari, which then itself launches the appropriate section of Settings.app. Though my initial skepticism was based on whether this would require an active data connection, which has since become redundant as I believe this requirement has been removed in updated versions, it just feels awkward to me. My problem with the WiFi switcher is related to the time it takes to turn it on, not necessarily the amount of taps I have to go through to get to it (though I realise there is a direct correlation there). This solution does not seem any faster to me, especially considering a real-use, everyday case.

Say I start to use these icons instead of launching Settings.app, where do I place them? I highly doubt I would be able to find a place for them on my highly prioritised Home Screen, especially with the unsightly icon images they currently sport. Therefore, I would have to hunt down the icon, launch it, which launches Safari, then launches Settings.app. That sounds like a worse experience to me. Let us also consider, that there are a number of these icons, so they may be organised into a folder. You then need to add a step at the start of the aforementioned process, to tap to open that folder. I realise that Spotlight is an option, but if you have a number of apps and media on your device, it is never usually faster for me than just launching that app (in this situation, as Settings.app resides on my Home Screen).

I mentioned the word “experience” previously, and it is one that is central to the enjoyment of using iOS, and, conversely, why I could never see myself using anything like this. When you watch the video, or install these onto your device, it feels like something running on a jailbroken phone, it breaks the experience.

Feature Checking

Something I have been thinking a lot about recently is the feature checking Apple does when releasing a new iPhone, or even a significant update to iOS. I was planning to link to an old Justin Williams post (that I only just got around to attempting to read in my Instapaper queue), entitled ‘From iPhone to Android’.

In this post Justin was discussing the subjective benefits of using Android compared to an iPhone, which essentially boiled down to a number of features that Android has, which iOS didn’t. What I noticed when reading this again over a year after it was posted, was how many of these features have since been ‘checked off’ by Apple. The most significant part of this being that almost all of these changes were software based. I believe that this tells us two things. One, that the iPhone hardware has always been superior to the competition, and while it may technically lose out on a ‘spec sheet challenge’, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about the lack of a (terrible) 3D camera, or a kickstand on an iPhone. But, more importantly, is not only how ruthlessly Apple has checked off these other reasons as to why anyone would purchase anything other than an iPhone, but how the competition has failed to come up with any other advances in the meantime, aforementioned gimmicks aside. Well, I guess that’s three things, but who’s counting?*

I know that this is something that Marco Arment has discussed in his excellent ‘Build & Analyse’ podcast (which you all listen to, right?), how Apple has gone as far as to include the blinking flash sensor to indicate a notification, for those people who can’t live without the blinking red light on their BlackBerry. But there is one I think they have missed.

One More Thing?…

The only feature I can think of as missing, and by that, I mean I notice it every time I go to turn it on, is the WiFi switcher. It is buried too deep in the menu system for my liking, and every time I go to turn it on, I wish there was a faster way. It is one of (the only) thing I miss from my time using an Android device, the ability to flick to a new home screen, and turn on the WiFi with a simple button. I think it may be a bit harsh to call it an oversight, but it is certainly something I would appreciate. Perhaps it’s because o2’s 3G reception is incredibly spotty, especially in my house, but if WiFi is available, I’d rather be using it. Now whether this is me being too picky, I’ll let you judge, but I would argue that this is only because Apple has set the bar so high. Whichever it is, I believe there must be a better way, and that way leads to Notification Center. Pulling down Notification Center, then flipping the WiFi switch seems so intuitive to me, that I’m almost surprised that it isn’t already an option. There can even be a setting in the Notification Center options is enable or disable it, a lá Weather and Stocks.

I can only assume that more and more features will be checked off as iOS is updated, I certinly hope that the WiFi switcher is next on the list.

*Me.

Update: To clarify, this is not due to concerns with battery life. But more about my obsessive compulsive need to have direct control over my phone’s WiFi access.

An Introduction

I actually set up this site a while ago, but have not been posting any content. I convinced myself it was because I was “still tweaking the CSS”, or “I want my first post to be great, but I don’t know what it should be.” While both of these things still remain true, I came to the conclusion that if I want to write, I should just write, the site design and everything else can be fixed later. I was motivated to this conclusion by the same force that motivated me to create this site, Steve Jobs.

At first I was loathe to make my first post about Jobs, given the obituaries and commentary that were written following his premature end, but it was his “do…something” quotes that genuinely inspired me to create anything at all.

I am writing this first post while watching the WWDC 2011 Keynote (the first time I have actually sat down and watched it), however, I only made it to the end of Steve’s introduction before I had to pause the video and switch to Byword to start typing. I described Steve Jobs as a “force” earlier, and that wording was very much intentional.

Anyone that knows me will have realised that I have become increasingly interested (obsessed?) with technology. Not just hardware specs, or UI design, but the entirety of the impact, and more importantly, potential impact that technology can and will have on our lives. Technology should make things easier, for everyone, not just nerds. So when I come across opaque design, it’s frustrating. Instead of discussing (dictating?) at length, or forcing my friends to ‘tune me out’, I decided to try and turn it into a positive.

I’d never set up a site (and all that comes with it), and I’ve always had a desire to be a (part-time) writer. This site will allow me to combine the latent writer in me with my exigent need to “do…something”.

Oh, and don’t worry, it won’t all be about ‘technology’, I’ll basically just write about what interests me.

Including video games.

Because I’m a nerd.