Archive: January, 2014

Padbury clock

I have a habit of installing quirky screensavers on my Macs as a throwback to an earlier era. But with my latest Macbook Air I fell in line with the default settings sans screensaver, dissatisfied with what was out there. That all changed when I saw this screensaver by designer Robert Padbury, developed by Steve Streza. It’s a twist on the iOS7 lock screen with options for white on black or black on white typography. It’s minimal and extremely elegant.

When to use target=”_blank”

CSS Tricks’ Chris Coyier writes the definitive guide on when it is ok to add the “target=_blank” attribute to links. It’s a controversial subject with a wide range of opinion, but I agree almost entirely with his stance: when in doubt, *don’t use target*. Especially don’t use it as a sneaky way to keep users from leaving your page.

Tips for public speaking

Some simple public speaking and presentation tips by tech speaker Zach Holman. I dig the advice though I find the overall site structure, with small details broken up into lots of individual pages, a bit maddening.

U r not (red)e

Graphic designer Sean Haas examines how the iconic PlayStation logo was designed in the mid 90s. He looks over many early prototypes and influences from both the time period and competitors like Nintendo. (via Patrick Klepek)

Why i’ve changed my mind about connecting my DVR to my Xbox One

Tested’s Will Smith gave the Xbox One a second chance as a universal remote after a negative run last month:

As far as I can tell, Microsoft hasn’t changed anything with the way the TV functionality works since the Xbox One’s launch, but my behavior has changed. I use the TiVo remote to navigate to whatever I want to watch, but if I need to pause, play, or even fast forward whlie I’m watching something I use the basic voice commands. “Xbox Pause” and “Xbox Play” are reliable and work well, even though using the voice commands for more complex tasks remains maddening.

But it looks like there’s some serious power concerns that may keep him from using the setup over the long run.

Conquering the command line

I find a surprising number of otherwise skilled web developers that still have trepidation around the command line. I’m no expert myself, but a few of the basics, especially pertaining to grep, can really do wonders when you’re in a pinch in the middle of a development session.

Mark Bates has written a excellent book on the subject; I’ve already read the first two chapters and like what I’ve read. It’s easy to follow along and comprehensive. You can read the entire book contents online or purchase an ebook, screencasts, or a physical copy.

In the Coen brothers’ punishing world, morals are everything

Nice insights by The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson, especially this one:

Coen protagonists tend to make one early bad choice that will lead to destruction by the end of the movie, but their struggles to evade it are endearing and fascinating.

I’ve been watching the Coen brothers for decades now and I always wonder if their slant toward moral punishment and absurdism will ever not show up in one of their films. The answer is always no, even in those that court mainstream audiences with bigger budgets and stars like True Grit and No Country For Old Men.

Why are movie posters so terrible now?

GoodBadFlicks puts together a fairly strong argument on the lack of originality behind most movie posters today. I’m not convinced, as the video suggests, posters are “terrible” (though that example set from X-Men: First Class is dreadful) especially considering the posters referenced from the 80s and 90s are not especially eye catching. But they nail the severe lack of originality; reinforced with the endless combinations of huge head shots on posters I see all over New York. (via Slashfilm)

Xbox One’s uphill convergence battle

Microsoft promotes the Xbox One as an all-in-one solution for your living room needs: gaming, film, cable TV, even home exercise. But the Xbox One leans on convergence to a fault. It’s a console whose overstuffed feature set, for now, has left it vulnerable on both price and its user interface. While core gamers kept sales strong over the holidays I’m concerned that the console will have a rough future with a mainstream audience.

Its convergence problems start with its $500 price tag. Devices that already carry the same feature set of core streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Hulu Plus) as the Xbox One are $100 or less. Granted, the Xbox One adds on high end gaming, voice and gesture UI integration along with limited cable TV control, but those additions for $400 are a hard sell for everyday consumers. And I doubt we’ll see a price drop anytime soon; the console requires high-end expensive gaming hardware to compete with Sony’s PS4 over next gen gaming. The Kinect, one of the Xbox’s purported main innovations, drives the price higher. Microsoft tacks on additional fees as well: a $60/year Xbox Live subscription is required for most functionality, a policy unheard of on competing tech devices like the PS4 or Roku.

Convergence across diverse activities also adds complexity to the Xbox One’s UI, an extra hurdle for mainstream adoption. Just compare the console’s preferred interaction method – voice – against interaction on competing media and tech devices. From my own testing, Xbox One voice commands largely work. But it still feels like a feature trying to find its footing; about 20% of the time I have to repeat myself or a command takes me in an unwanted direction.

80% reliability is a good start, but that’s 15% short of what it should be given the competition’s astounding performance. Consider the 1 to 1 touch interaction on a modern iOS or stock Android smartphone or tablet. Or the tried and true keyboard and mouse inputs on a desktop or laptop. Even buttons on a remote control for the cable box. These aforementioned devices “just work.” Granted, Microsoft’s voice technology is new and will improve, and there’s a game controller for backup navigation. But historically users outside a tech or gaming enthusiast base show little patience for new input technologies that work unreliably.

Then there’s added Xbox One functionality that’s puzzling. Things like:

  • “Snapping” an application like a web page or Skype alongside the right side of the screen seems like it would be used in a rare scenario.
  • Minority Report style Kinect gestures to move around the UI that are slow and awkward.
  • A Windows 8-like interface that’s visually striking, but occasionally confusing with a menu of very similarly sized and colored boxes doing different things.

Microsoft would argue that ambition takes time and that the Xbox One’s rough patches will be smoothed over soon. And I want the Xbox One to succeed; strong competition from Microsoft’s console leads to better technology from Sony, Nintendo, Apple and Google. However, other living room tech isn’t standing still. Rumors suggest the next Apple TV iteration will be ambitious. Sony’s PS4 runs select multi-platform games at higher resolutions with a more straightforward, gaming focused UI, which could appeal to the core gaming market. Drive can only take a console so far; with Microsoft’s missteps on price and UI, it’s unclear if the company can deliver on its promise.

Helvetica sucks

To quote from the site, “loved by hipsters & lazy designers.”