Ben’s weblog

  1. The Apple iWatch

    Apple is about to announce its wearable device, so I thought it would be useful to look at one of the earliest predictions of what an Apple iWatch will be able to do.

    Back in February 2013, Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini wrote “The Apple iWatch.” He describes what a hypothetical Apple wearable device could and should do. It will be more useful than the current smart watches, which do little more than display notifications. It will tell time, of course, but also automatically log you in to websites and apps, warn you when you leave your iPhone behind, and finally make mobile payments a reality in America. It will also let you decide how to answer a phone call, monitor your health, and control your music.1

    Tog describes in detail how the iWatch will be able to do all this and more, and makes it all seem realistic and inevitable. If you’re interested in the iWatch, you should definitely read this.2

    I only recently read his post, and it was one of the few to make me excited for Apple’s wearable device. Until now, I hadn’t been excited because I couldn’t figure out how Apple could convince young people to wear watches again, no matter how popular the Apple brand is. I figured those were on their way out. This article made me see how the iWatch could be more than just a notification device, which helped me see how the iWatch could succeed, despite the decreasing popularity of traditional wrist watches.

    Until now, I had assumed that watches were on their way out because cell phones made them unnecessary. I then concluded that watches in general must by dying; people don’t want to wear a useless strap around their wrist.

    But people do want to wear a useless strap around their wrist, and they have been doing so for ages. These useless straps are called bracelets.

    So what if Apple were to make a bracelet. Let’s say it’s completely useless, yellow, and only costs $1. Lance Armstrong was able to sell 80 million of such a bracelet.

    But let’s say Apple makes a good-looking bracelet3 that does something useful, like tell the time, make payments, track your health, and who knows what else. It would probably cost more than $1.

    I could see this iWatch doing alright, perhaps better than wrist watches ever did.

    1. Tog also describes how the iWatch could be a remote for an updated Apple TV. I think this makes sense, and if he’s right, it could be why we’re going to see an iWatch before we see an updated Apple TV. 

    2. Tog was an Apple interface designer from 1978 to 1992. So while he probably does not have any inside information, he knows what he’s talking about. 

    3. I’m thinking Jony Ive and his team will be able to make a good-looking bracelet. As Horace Dediu put it, “This has Jony Ive all over it.” 

  2. I stopped by an AT&T store today and asked the sales rep how many Amazon Fire Phones they had sold. He said he hadn’t sold any yet, but he knew the store as a whole had.

  3. ☛ Life after death: Resuscitating a drowned iPhone 5

    I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. My four-year-old iPod touch was soaked after an unfortunate hiking trip. It would still turn on, but only parts of the screen would respond to touch and other parts would respond to touches that didn’t exist. I usually couldn’t make it past the lock screen, and if I did, it wasn’t worth it.

    So I turned it off and put it in a dry place overnight, and the next morning, it was back to normal. I mean, I’m still stuck on iOS 4, but it works.

  4. Mark Buehrle

    Mark Buehrle is one of my favorite baseball players. He played for the White Sox from 2000 to 2011, and, while he was there, he was consistently one of the best pitchers on the team. He was also fun and down-to-earth. During rain delays, he used to slide across the wet tarp. That is, until management told him to stop.

    He is also a fast pitcher. In 2003, I remember going to two White Sox games where he was pitching against the Oakland Athletics’ Mark Mulder, who is also a fast pitcher. One in April and one in August.1 Both those games were finished in under two hours, which is almost unheard of.2

    Buehrle is also a fantastic defensive pitcher, with plays like this incredible between-the-legs backhand throw. As a result, he won the Gold Glove each year from 2009 to 2012.

    So, it was sad to see him leave in 2012 to the Marlins, and then to the Blue Jays. But I’m glad to see that he’s still a great, consistent pitcher.

    For some reason, baseball commentators are starting to notice him this season. There have been three nice articles about Buehrle that I finally got around to reading this past weekend. They all try to unravel the mystery of what makes Buehrle so great, yet unremarkable.

    Among the interesting things from these articles:

    • Jazayerli notes that

    In his 15-year career, Buehrle has allowed 58 stolen bases. Total. This year, not a single runner has even bothered to try.

    • Bialik notes that

    He’s spared baseball fans nearly 63 hours of dead time between pitches.

    • and Passan notes that

    For the past 13 seasons – all 13 full years of his career – Buehrle has thrown 200 or more innings.

    If he reaches 200 innings this season, he’ll tie Christy Mathewson and Greg Maddux, which is pretty good company. If he does it for three more years after that, he’ll have tied Warren Spahn for the record. But, I’m not sure if he’ll reach 200 this year. Right now, he’s at 161.0 with 32 games left in the season. With perhaps six more starts left in the season, he’d have to average 6.5 innings per start.

    He’s also sitting at 197 wins, and if he sticks around for a while, he could conceivably reach 300 wins. That would be a long shot, but if he reaches that, he would at least have to be considered for the Hall of Fame. I agree with Jazayerli, though, that Buehrle almost certainly shouldn’t make it into the Hall of Fame.

    1. And wow, looking back at the recaps for these games, they looked like pretty good ones. In the April game, right fielder Maggliio Ordóñez missed a fly ball because he lost it in the fog. The Sox gave up two runs that inning and lost 4 to 1. I remember wondering whether the umps would ever delay a game for fog. In the August game, both Marks pitched complete games, and the Sox won because the A’s center fielder almost robbed a Magglio Ordóñez home run, but didn’t hold onto the ball. 

    2. And I’m sure my parents appreciated it. 

  5. ☛ Lorem Ipsum: Of Good & Evil, Google & China

    Here’s another great story involving Google Translate, lorem ipsum, and possibly China and the CIA.

  6. ☛ A fantastic story

    For a fantastic story featuring “secret zoos, sewing machines, an alligator farm, a marching band, and a bus full of French tourists that save the day,” start listening at 20:30.

    It doesn’t necessarily have a moral or a deep meaning; it’s just a fun story, told well.

  7. Evolution of the iOS Share Sheet

    Since the first iPhone, you could always share what you were looking at. Early on, you had limited options, such as sharing by email or saving the image to the Camera Roll.

    Early share sheets looked something like this:

    iOS 5

    With iOS 5, Apple added Twitter integration. When you wanted to tweet a link or a picture, a share sheet would pop up for Twitter, like so:

    iOS 5 + Twitter

    Apple needed to update this system. iPhones could only display about seven sharing options on one screen, and Apple had to manually add Twitter sharing. Apple would have to manually add any new sharing options, a system that obviously would not scale. Third-party developers could choose which services to share with, but they were still limited by the clunky UI and consumers were stuck with whatever sharing services the developer chose.

    Apple began to address this in iOS 6:

    iOS 6

    With iOS 6, you could share content in up to nine different ways. The share sheet was also much more visually appealing, with images instead of just text. However, Apple didn’t change much conceptually. Apple and developers still had to manually add sharing options.

    But Apple clearly wanted to improve how sharing worked on iOS, and they thought they could improve it with UI improvements. Perhaps Apple could have eventually made this incarnation of the share sheet swipe-able, like on the home screen.

    Then came iOS 7:

    iOS 7

    The current share sheet is similar to how it was on iOS 6, in that sharing options continue to use icons.

    But Apple removed the static grid of nine sharing options. Instead of the grid, the share sheet has two rows of sharing options that you can swipe. The bottom row lets you take action on what you are looking at, with actions such as saving an image to the Camera Roll or beginning a slideshow. The second row lets you share what you are looking at with various social services, such as Twitter, Facebook, or email.

    With these swipe-able rows, Apple could potentially add an infinite number of sharing and action options, if it chose to open up how sharing and actions work.

    Which is what it is doing with iOS 8:

    iOS 8

    Apple will soon let developers create extensions. There will be many types of extensions, including Action and Share extensions. This will fit nicely with the action and sharing rows introduced in iOS 7. Action extensions will include actions such as Bing Translate, which can translate the website you are currently looking at. Share extensions will let any social service add a share sheet. Apple has already previewed a Pinterest share sheet that lets users quickly pin something.

    Extensions are in many ways an impressive technical feat. Apple found a way to open up its sharing options while still keeping it secure. But extensions are also a user-interface achievement. Apple had to experiment with different share sheet designs before they found one that would work well with extensions.

  8. Apple created a page on its website dedicated to Robin Williams.

    It’s a simple website with a picture of Williams that says:

    Robin Williams

    1951 – 2014

    We are deeply saddened by the passing of Robin Williams. He inspired us through his passion, his generosity, and the gift of laughter. He will be greatly missed.

    I like it. Nice and simple.

    I also noticed Apple used a bit of responsive web design for this page.

    When I looked at it on my iPod touch, the text was placed above the picture of Williams.

    Remembering Robin Williams, on my iPod touch

    When I looked at it on my MacBook, the text was smaller and placed to the right of the picture of Williams.

    Remembering Robin Williams, on my MacBook

    Perhaps Apple has used responsive web design in the past, but this is the first time I’ve noticed it.

    UPDATE: Apparently Apple has done this before, such as on its Back to School promo page.

  9. ☛ Untangling the Amazon–Hachette Dispute

    Glenn Fleishman does a great job of explaining the Amazon–Hachette dispute and provides an elegant solution:

    To break Amazon’s lock on ebooks, publishers could insist that DRM-free EPUB become the format of choice, eliminating the connection between reading on a Kindle and purchasing from Amazon.

  10. ☛ The NCAA Is a Wreck Now

    Charles Pierce for Grantland, on the recent court ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA:

    It no longer matters what “reforms” come from the NCAA now. Nor does it matter how Congress may involve itself. Nothing will happen to change the structure of college sports now without the consent of the athletes who play the games. To borrow a phrase from an earlier revolutionary, they have it within their power to begin the world anew. The most interesting question is, will they actually do it?

  11. ☛ Chinese Regulation/Censorship of Social Media

    Excellent commentary by Gruber over at Daring Fireball:

    We in the U.S. are fortunate that our most popular social media site has a completely transparent and open system for what people see in their news feeds. Wait, what.

    Every once in a while, I think about rejoining Facebook, but then Facebook does something stupid. Then I think I’ll just stick to Twitter, RSS/blogs, and email. These are working just fine and have straightforward privacy controls.

  12. ☛ This is the chip that could make your MacBook even thinner and lighter

    Elizabeth Lopatto for Quartz:

    Imagine a redesigned MacBook Air that more closely resembles an iPad in thinness.

    For reference, the current MacBook Airs are 0.68 inches thick and already seem incredibly thin. The latest iPads are 0.29 inches thick.

    Would it also have a Retina Display? If it did, that would be an amazing computer.

    Also, there are rumors of an iPad Pro that may or may not have an attached keyboard. How would this hypothetical MacBook Air fit in with that?

  13. Here’s something worth knowing:

    • EST stands for Eastern Standard Time
    • EDT stands for Eastern Daylight Time


    • CST stands for Central Standard Time
    • CDT stands for Central Daylight Time

    and so on, for other time zones with daylight saving time.

    So right now, if you wanted to properly write the time in Pittsburgh, you’d add EDT, since we’re still in daylight saving time.

    But come November 2, you’d add EST to the time in Pittsburgh.

    I don’t know if this is well known, but I’ve told this to a couple people and they were surprised to learn it.

  14. ☛ Burying the lede

    John Gruber:

    The only way this could get funnier would be if it doesn’t even ship until after Apple announces their wrist wearable thing next month.

    Does this mean the wearable device will be announced at the September 9 iPhone event? Or will Apple have three keynotes: one for the iPhone, one for the wearable, and one for the iPad?


  15. ☛ Seinfeld on Netflix?

    Jerry Seinfeld did another AMA on reddit about a week ago. Someone asked him about bringing Seinfeld to Netflix:

    Q: Jerry, any word on Seinfeld coming to Netflix? Can you please convince Larry to let it happen? There are so many people who still have not experienced Seinfeld first hand and having it available through Netflix will surely be the easiest way. C’€™monnnnnnnnnnn

    A: You are a very smart and progressive person. These conversations are presently taking place.

    I don’t have Netflix, but I think this sounds like a great idea.

    It would be like when Netflix added all of The West Wing. I knew some people who began watching the show for the first time, and I also had friends who loved The West Wing and then watched a lot of episodes again.