Amazon Dash Button

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch:

Amazon has new hardware called the Dash Button that allows one-press ordering of products you’re likely to want to replace on a regular basis. The Dash Button comes in a number of different branded versions based on what it’s coded to order, and includes an adhesive backing and hook holster to let you stick it where it’s most convenient.

In the TechCrunch article, there’s a photo of a Tide Dash Button stuck to a washing machine. I can only imagine what little kids will do with that button: “Honey, why did you order 30 boxes of Tide?!?”

UI Happy

Joel Spolsky:

UI is important because it affects the feelings, the emotions, and the mood of your users. If the UI is wrong and the user feels like they can’t control your software, they literally won’t be happy and they’ll blame it on your software. If the UI is smart and things work the way the user expected them to work, they will be cheerful as they manage to accomplish small goals.

What are our expectations when it comes to how a smartwatch UI should work? Whatever they are they don’t seem to be the way users expect them to work when it comes to the Apple Watch UI. Pretty are these new Apple Watches, but by the looks of some initial hands-on impressions the UI might make more than a few users unhappy, at first at least.

I think Apple jumped the gun a bit. Let me explain. When the iPhone was announced in early 2007, the world had been very unhappy with the bumbling Windows Mobile 6.5 UI. Microsoft simply shrunk the desktop version of Windows menus and all to fit a tiny screen. The UI made no one happy and everyone suffered. There was Palm, but it was only a little better. iPhone OS changed all of that, instantly. The iPhone’s UI worked the way users expected it to work, and iPhone users were happier than they have ever been using a smartphone. The Apple Watch, unfortunately, isn’t coming at a time when smartwatch users are unhappy and fed up with smartwatch UIs. We are just starting to get a feel for them; just figuring out what to expect of them. Apple does not solve much with the Apple Watch; it is too early.

Do I think the Apple Watch will sell well? Yes. Do I think Apple Watch owners and those around them will swoon at its beauty? Yes. Do I think Apple Watch owners will be happy using them? Not at first.


On February 25, 2015 Tumblr user swiked posted a photo of a dress and asked for help to identify its colors. Was it white and gold or black and blue? As of now, 16 days later, there are 3.4 million votes on BuzzFeed with a 68/32 #WhiteandGold/#BlueandBlack split. What happened?

A lot of things happened, I think, but at the core of #TheDress is color and how we perceive color. I read a lot of different scientific articles about color, light, vision, etc. and here is my summary of what I learned.

COLOR IS NOT A DISCREET THING, and depends on light. Color also depends on how it was captured, and the visual system observing it. Other things color is dependent on are: the lens, the image sensor, the color space used when the image was captured, the compression algorithm, and the display. It doesn’t stop there because the display itself has many variables: light source, color space, brightness, contrast ratio, viewing angle, wide viewing angle liquid crystal technology, etc.

LIGHT MAKES COLOR. Let’s start with the notion that color is not a discreet thing. Let’s also assume we are where we are (but we could theoretically be somewhere else): on earth, with the sun as our natural source of light. Light from the sun passes through the atmosphere of the earth and reaches the surface of the earth. This light from the sun has many wavelengths, from 10-6 nanometer gamma rays to 100 meter radio waves. The portion of wavelengths that work with our human visual system — called visible light — is tiny and from about 400 nm to 700 nm. Here’s a short list matching wavelengths to color:

The mixture of visible light is called white light. We see color when an object absorbs some wavelengths and reflects other wavelengths. For instance, a white car is white because when the sun’s light hits the car it absorbs no color and reflects all of them back. Change the light to something else and the white car will no longer be white. Change the human visual system and the white car is no longer white. The white color on the car is not discreet and wholly depends on the light reflecting off of it and the visual system observing it. To get a taste of what I’m talking about hop on over to Explain xkcd, where you can clearly see the color of the dress as dramatically different colors depending on the light that’s hitting it.

THE IMPERFECT CAMERA. How was this photo captured? Probably on a smartphone. Let’s get into the nitty gritty a bit. The camera hardware subsystem is composed largely of a set of lenses and an image sensor. Anyone who knows anything about photography knows the lens quality makes a significant difference in the quality of the image. I’m sure you’ve heard of this rule of thumb: “Get a decent camera body, but get the best lens you can afford.” That’s what I recommend to anyone wanting to get a lens-replaceable camera; lens quality is important. A poor quality lens can make photos blurry, add chromatic aberrations, noise, and vignetting to name some of the more common defects. Unfortunately with rare exceptions most smartphones have lenses that are mediocre at best. Remember light is what makes color; a lot of light makes better color, and vice versa.

Then there’s the image sensor. I have to guess smartphone product managers are too swayed by marketing folks who incorrectly believe more pixels on the image sensor will sell more smartphones. How else can I explain why every year the megapixel count on smartphones image sensors grow. I understand we need a certain number of pixels on the sensor, but after a certain number — I’d say about eight megapixels — cramming more photosensors will not enhance photo quality; it will actually do the opposite. At about the eight megapixel mark what helps improve photo quality is making each of those pixels or photosensors larger and more sensitive to light (back illuminated sensor). After light goes through the lens, hits the image sensor, photo information is processed by an algorithm. Some smartphones can save this information unprocessed in RAW format, but most photos are the result of this information being compressed; JPEG being the most popular. JPEG is a lossy compression algorithm, which means there is information that is lost due to the compression.

Combine these variables (lens, image sensor, algorithm, compression) and it should be apparent there is ample potential for imperfections to trickle into photos. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and few others have camera subsystems that can capture high quality photos. But even with the best smartphone the same color can be perceived differently.

THE IMPERFECT DISPLAY. Ah, the display. So many companies make so many crappy displays. Even good displays are not calibrated, and the end result is inaccurate colors. There are two main display technologies today: LCD and OLED. A display using LCD technology features an always-on backlight and uses liquid crystals to control how much light goes through each pixel. (There is one exception: the direct-lit RGB LED array backlight.) Unlike LCD, black on an OLED display emits no light, resulting in blacks that are as deep as black holes and whites almost as pure as white light from the sun. Accurate colors are a challenge for both display technologies. Remember the early days of Samsung’s Galaxy phones with OLED displays? The blown-out over-saturated colors? Pure yuck; it actually provokes in me a biological reaction similar to the feeling I get when I’m about to throw up. I continue to see these cruddy displays on even the newest Samsung smartphones. Thankfully you can set the display option on a Galaxy Note 4 to Basic, which transforms the display from gut-wrenching to the most accurate mobile display on the planet. The best type of LCD is IPS, but compared to OLED the colors on even the best IPS LCDs are slightly washed out.

You don’t even get a choice of OLED when it comes to laptops and monitors; IPS LCD is your only option if you want some semblance of color accuracy, for now. Most laptops and monitors do not come with an easy way to calibrate colors. Thankfully higher-end laptops have slowly shifted away from affordable, but terrible TN-based LCDs to IPS LCDs. Same goes for monitors. When it comes to displays there’s a lot to be worked on. I reached out to Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate, and asked him what is going on with #TheDress:

All of the differences reported are caused by variations in the display calibration and color accuracy of the TV or display it is being viewed on. The ambient lighting for both the display and the photo play a major effect – especially since the photo is strongly backlit. I’ve analyzed all of these issues with a spectroradiometer in my Display Technology article series. It turns out that the real dress is actually deep blue and black, but any dynamic picture processing or increase in the display’s black level setting would produce the light blue and brown/gold image and account for the wide differences reported. The strong backlighting accentuates any display dynamic processing and calibration shifts. The source photo is of poor quality and also to blame.

Soneira points out, in addition to non-calibrated displays with poor color accuracy, an important consideration most of us have not considered: ambient lighting. The color of light hitting the dress changes the color, but the light in your room also affects the colors you see on your display. Do you want to experience what-you-see-on-your-display-is-what-you-see-in-real-life or get pretty close to it? I do. Like a good lens for high quality photos, I recommend spending most of your computing budget on a good display, and calibrate it if possible. In my opinion best monitor you can get your hands on today in terms of color accuracy are the HP Dreamcolor professional displays. The smartphone with the best color accuracy is the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in Basic mode. This is not my opinion, but test proven by Soneira. I also asked Martin Fishman, COO and EVP Worldwide Sales and Marketing at Portrait Displays what he thought was going on. Fishman stressed the importance of display calibration and encouraged everyone to ask this question: “Can you trust what you’re looking at on your display?” This is probably the most important question you should ask yourself when buying anything with a display.

The last factor is the bio-psychology of the human visual system, but that topic was way too vast for me, so I will conclude here. There were many factors that influenced our perception of the colors of #TheDress: light, capturing and processing light, and displaying light. All of these factors must have played a role in almost 70%, according to BuzzFeed’s survey, getting the colors wrong. The dress is in fact the Lace Bodycon Dress, in Royal Blue (#BlueandBlack).

The Apple Watch Interface Is Complicated, Confusing

Nilay Patel:

What matters today is the software, what it can do, and how it works. And it turns out it’s actually pretty complicated.

First things first: it is really confusing to have both the Digital Crown and the communications button next to each other on the side. As I tried to navigate the Watch interface, I found myself pressing one or both several times, without knowing which one would take me to the home screen, back out of an app, or launch a feature. Coming from the traditional iOS paradigm of a single home button that always takes you home, it’s a notable difference.


That feeling of not knowing exactly where you are or what’s going to happen is pretty disorienting for an Apple product […]

I have been a long time iPhone user, but despite many years of getting used to the ins and outs of iOS the Settings app is still complicated and confusing.

Recently I jumped over the fence to Android and found the back button to be refreshing: it is always there and always does the same thing. iOS apps on the other hand require you to get used to different buttons and button locations or gestures to go back.

I don’t find it surprising that the user interface and experience of the Apple Watch is complicated and confusing, because instead of becoming simpler, more intuitive and more elegant iOS has become more complicated and more confusing over the years. I don’t mean to bash only iOS; Android has always been more complicated and more confusing, but I do like the back button.

Not only is the user interface and experience confusing, just look at the pricing of the Apple Watch. I’ve never seen such a mess of prices when it comes to Apple products, and making a purchase decision will be complicated enough that more than before would-be consumers will walk away needing more time to figure out what it is they really want and how much it is they really want to pay.

VIV: Siri 2.0

Steven Levy, Wired:

But Kittlaus points out that all of these services are strictly limited. Cheyer elaborates: “Google Now has a huge knowledge graph—you can ask questions like ‘Where was Abraham Lincoln born?’ And it can name the city. You can also say, ‘What is the population?’ of a city and it’ll bring up a chart and answer. But you cannot say, ‘What is the population of the city where Abraham Lincoln was born?’” The system may have the data for both these components, but it has no ability to put them together, either to answer a query or to make a smart suggestion. Like Siri, it can’t do anything that coders haven’t explicitly programmed it to do.

Viv breaks through those constraints by generating its own code on the fly, no programmers required. Take a complicated command like “Give me a flight to Dallas with a seat that Shaq could fit in.” Viv will parse the sentence and then it will perform its best trick: automatically generating a quick, efficient program to link third-party sources of information together—say, Kayak, SeatGuru, and the NBA media guide—so it can identify available flights with lots of legroom. And it can do all of this in a fraction of a second.

This article, Siri’s Inventors Are Building a Radical New AI That Does Anything You Ask was published several months ago in August of 2014, but I just got to it because of the news that the company closed US$12.5 million in Series B funding.

Self-learning makes artificial intelligence less artificial. If VIV can become a personal AI that is always with me, and helps me get through the day… well, that might be like having Samantha from the movie Her. Crazy.

Pen Suspended Over Text

Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books:

Aside from simply insisting, as I already had for years, that they be more alert, I began to wonder what was the most practical way I could lead my students to a greater attentiveness, teach them to protect themselves from all those underlying messages that can shift one’s attitude without one’s being aware of it? I began to think about the way I read myself, about the activity of reading, what you put into it rather than what was simply on the page. Try this experiment, I eventually told them: from now on always read with a pen in your hands, not beside you on the table, but actually in your hand, ready, armed. And always make three or four comments on every page, at least one critical, even aggressive. Put a question mark by everything you find suspect. Underline anything you really appreciate. Feel free to write “splendid,” but also, “I don’t believe a word of it.” And even “bullshit.”

A pen is not a magic wand. The critical faculty is not conjured from nothing. But it was remarkable how many students improved their performance with this simple stratagem.

I like my books clean, especially my hardbound books with thick high-quality paper. The thought of marking them with a pencil is hard enough, but with a pen? With ink that’s permanent? Oooh, that’s painful. But it doesn’t have to be.

A couple of months ago I purchased a 5.7-inch OLED smartphone that comes with a stylus — yes, a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I’ve been reading a lot on it; when I read at night with the lights turned off and Google Play Books in night mode, what a sublime experience it is!

The OLED display reminds me of the night sky: completely dark, except for the stars. When the pixels of an OLED display is black, the pixels are completely off emitting no light, consuming no energy, and dark as a black hole. The white letters are like brilliant stars, and I’m exaggerating only a little bit.

I am in agreement with Parks. I remember the years in junior high, from seventh through ninth grade. I was in Korea. I, and almost everyone else in my class, had one of those multi-color pens with red, green, blue, and black. I also had a mechanical pencil with many extra 0.5 mm lead refills, a ten centimeter ruler, and a sheet of thin plastic the size of an A4-sized notebook. The thin plastic sheet went under the textbook page making it easy to underline and mark with pen and pencil; without it the page could tear especially when marking with a sharp mechanical pencil. I remember the feeling of wanting to learn, which was almost synonymous to wanting to mark up my textbooks.

The only marking I do on my e-books is highlighting, and making notes. Unlike real notes, the ones in e-books are not in my handwriting but computer text and shrunk into an icon that looks like a note. I click it and the note bubbles up; convenient, efficient, not terrible, but not what I want. What I want is to underline, highlight, and make notes with my handwriting intact. No shrinking, no bubbling. This way I can keep my real books clean, and read more actively by making notes on my e-books.

Xiaomi Mi Note

The Verge: The Xiaomi Mi Note is a 5.7-inch smartphone, and comes with two display options: 1920×1080 (386 ppi) and 2560×1440 (515 ppi) for the Pro version. The 1920×1080 LCD features a 95% NTSC color gamut and is supplied by Sharp and JDI. The 2560×1440 display specs were not disclosed at this time.

During the Mi Note introduction, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun mocked the iPhone 6’s camera bump. The iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1-mm thick, while the Mi Note is thinner at 6.95 mm. The Mi Note has a 13 megapixel f/2.0 camera with optical image stabilization; the iPhone 6 Plus a 8 megapixel f/2.2 camera with OIS. Despite the Mi Note being thinner than the iPhone 6 Plus the camera is flush with the body. (There are no cartoonish-looking antenna bands either.)

John Gruber:

I’d wager a handsome sum the iPhone 6 Plus takes better photos than the Mi Note, but it’s rare for Apple to leave an opening like this for design mockery.

The iPhone 6 Plus (and iPhone 6) received a DXOMark Mobile Score of 82, which is number one among smartphones at the time of this writing. The #3 Samsung S5, #4 Sony Xperia Z3, and #5 Z2 all scored 79. I doubt the Xiaomi Mi Note will score higher than these, but I am open to surprises. I am curious as to what the mechanical and optical differences are between the two camera subsystems that make one protrude out and the other not.

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God

Eric Metaxas, The Wall Street Journal:

For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction — by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 — then no stars could have ever formed at all.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row.

The entire article, which is quite short for such an important topic, is worth a read.

Kantar: Apple On Track For ‘Record Quarter’ As iPhone 6 Sales Bump Up Its Market Share Vs. Android

Ingrid Lunden, TechCrunch:

Apple has been seeing its smartphone market share erode over the last several years as its simple-and-small line up of iPhones competed against model after model of low-priced, big-screened, fancy-featured Android-based handsets. But it looks like its latest iPhone 6 models — with their larger faces, 4G compatibility and Apple Pay support — may be helping it turn the tide a bit.

Lunden uses the latest figures — the last three months ending on October 31 — from Kantar Worldpanel. The figures show nine countries and year-over-year changes in the three-month (August, September, October) smartphone operating system sales share. The nine countries are: Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, U.S.A., China, Australia, and Japan, in no particular order. For instance in Great Britain, iOS gained 10.4% points from 29.1% in the Aug.-Sep.-Oct. period in 2013 to 39.5% in the same period in 2014. iOS showed gains in Australia too: 35.0% to 40.4% for a gain of 5.4% points.

Sounds good. But doesn’t the size of the market matter? For instance, a 1% point gain in China (about 1.4 billion in population) should be way more significant than a 1% point gain in Australia (about 24 million in population). So I did some math and added in the total population — for simplicity sake — for each country and then figured out how significant these percentage point changes reported by Kantar and TechCrunch really were. I understand that there are differences among the countries mentioned (wireless infrastructure: overall reach, LTE deployment, cost, monthly payments, discounts, etc., per capita income, smartphone penetration/saturation, smartphone replacement rate, and many other differences), but all I wanted to see was how the size of a country’s population impact these numbers that seem to point to Apple turning the tide. The results are quite interesting.

Android, in order of significance:

All nine countries combined the percentage points changes from 2013 to 2014 resulted in an addition of about 80 million Android users, primarily because of the relatively small 4.8% point change in China. Now let’s look at iOS, also in order of significance:

All nine countries put together iOS added over 4.3M users, despite the relatively large (-13.1% point Y/Y) percentage point decrease in Japan. The percentage point decrease in Japan is quite significant (-16.6 million users) because Japan’s population is the third largest (almost 130 million) in this group, after China and the U.S.

Limiting our discussion to just these nine countries that Kantar profiled, Android added significantly (almost 19x more significant using our really simplified model) more users than iOS. So did iPhone 6 sales bump up the share of iOS versus Android? In Great Britain, yes. In China? No, because while iOS added 0.2% points (+2.7 million) Android added 4.8% points (+65.7 million). China is where it matters and Apple didn’t bump up its market share there. Japan? No. And in the nine countries as a group? Nope.

PSY’s “Gangnam Style” Forces YouTube To Upgrade To 64-Bit


We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY. “Gangnam Style” has been viewed so many times we had to upgrade to a 64-bit integer (9,223,372,036,854,775,808)!

Over two billion views. Wow.

iPhone: 2007 – 2014

I remember June 29, 2007 like it was yesterday. I called the Apple Store, asked the Apple Store employee whether the iPhone was in stock, and upon confirmation that there were iPhones in stock drove to Valley Fair. I waited for maybe ten minutes, charged an enormous amount of money to my credit card, and walked out with an iPhone. Up until that point the only portable gadget I have wanted as badly was a Sony Walkman.

Six months prior to that day I was in San Francisco, and watched Steve Jobs introduce to the iPhone. At the time smartphones were run by Windows Mobile 6.x or Palm OS. Windows Mobile 6.x was the desktop version of Windows shrunk to fit a tiny screen. There were nested menus! It didn’t take too long for me to ditch the Windows Mobile 6.x-based Motorola Q. The Palm Treo was better, but the iPhone was a revolution. Multitouch? On a phone? Just incredible.

Next came the iPhone 3G, which was really fast, though I didn’t care for the name. (3G? Are we later going to get 4G?) Then the even faster 3GS came out. Still didn’t like that name. The year after that Steve Jobs came up on stage and changed the smartphone game with the retina iPhone 4. The display was amazing; so was the industrial design. Yes, there was that antennagate thingamajig, but the iPhone 4 was beautiful. The iPhone, 3G, and 3GS had a 3.5-inch LCD with a 480×320 pixel format. The iPhone 4 quadrupled the number of pixels to 960×640 and increased the resolution to 326 ppi. The experience of looking at images and text on the iPhone 4 was like nothing else. The doubling of pixels on both the x and y axes also made it easy for developers to upgrade their non-retina apps. Then the 4S came out: faster, and with an improved camera. The iPhone 4 was already the most popular camera on Flickr, and Apple made the camera even better.

I loved that the iPhones were easy to use with one hand, not like the enormous Android smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S2 had a 4.5-inch screen! Huge, and just too big for normal hands. But something happened in 2012, something kind of weird. Apple decided to elongate the display. The original iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S all had a 3.5-inch LCD with a 3:2 aspect ratio. But the new iPhone 5 had a 4-inch LCD with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The pixel format was an even weirder 1136×640. There was one thing Apple did right: the resolution stayed at 326 ppi, so the visual experience remained pretty much the same. I thought, “Why bother going to 16:9 if you can’t even watch 720p videos at 1280×720?” The whole point of a 16:9 aspect ratio was HD video. Now developers had to have three versions of their apps: 480×320, 960×640, and 1136×640.

The year after that the iPhone 5S came out. Just like in prior years the 5S was faster and had a better camera. But the iPhone 5C came out too. The 5C was a lower-cost iPhone 5 (not 5S) with a plastic shell. Mmm… okay. The display remained the same, which was a relief: 4 inches was large enough. I couldn’t believe the size of some Android smartphones; the Sony Xperia Z Ultra had a six point four inch display! That wasn’t a phone it was a tablet. I made fun of those who had these gigantic phones by putting my iPad to the side of my face and pretended I was talking to someone. Ridiculous.

Then the iPhone 6 happened, along with the stupid big iPhone 6 Plus. I wasn’t too happy with the black plastic bits that covered up the antennas in the iPhone 5 and the 5S. Nor was I happy with Apple moving the audio connection from the top to the bottom. There were other niggles, but overall it was a good design. (I consider the 4 and 4S to be the best designed iPhones.) Instead of black plastic pieces the iPhone 6 has toyish-looking antenna bands. I don’t think the designers even tried to hide them. And the cameras stick out. This wouldn’t be a problem if the cameras always stuck out, but the cameras were always nicely integrated into the flat backs of all prior iPhones. Despite the bulging cameras these new ones are even better than the ones before, especially the optically stabilized camera on the iPhone 6 Plus. Still, Apple didn’t need to make the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus so thin that the camera had to bulge out. But the biggest issue I have is with the display.

The iPhone 6 sports a 4.7-inch LCD with a pixel format of 1334×750. (What in the world is that?!? I would have gone with a 4.5-inch display and a 1280×720 pixel format. Nice and tidy, and it would have also resulted in a resolution of 326 ppi.) So Apple is at least keeping the same resolution, right? Not really. The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus features a 1920×1080 pixel format. The resolution? 401 ppi. That sounds pretty good, but not when compared to the latest and greatest from the competition. The LG G3 has a 5.5-inch 2560×1440 LCD good for a resolution of 534 ppi, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 features a 5.7-inch 2560×1440 OLED display with a 515 ppi resolution. But it isn’t all about the pixel format and resolution. According to DisplayMate’s Dr. Raymond Soneira, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has the best mobile display. The Galaxy Note 4 had the best color accuracy, and that to me is very important. I want to know that what I see on my screen is as close to the real thing as possible. I don’t think making the best display on a smartphone is Apple’s top priority anymore. How can Apple? The company had to split its focus and resources into developing — not just one as it has been doing since 2007 — but two displays.

Let me just briefly touch on how complicated it is for developers to develop apps for iPhones now. Developers need five versions (four if iOS 8.0 is required): 480×320, 960×640, 1136×640, 1334×750, and 2208×1242. Yes, you read that right: 2208×1242, not 1920×1080. Developers need to render pixels at 2208×1242 and then they are downsampled to 1920×1080. I’m not a developer (yet), but that sounds quite a bit more complicated than it should. Read the easy-to-understand explanation by PaintCode. I think simplicity is on its way out Apple’s window.

Apple had a great run with its iPhones, but 2014 was the first year since 2007 when the original iPhone came out that I didn’t upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone. I think I found a better smartphone: the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

IBM: 2014 Cyber Monday Mobile Sales

Emil Protalinski, VentureBeat:

As always in the U.S., iOS beat out Android in mobile shopping this holiday season. iOS users averaged $114.79 per order compared to $96.84 for Android users, a difference of 18.5 percent.

iOS traffic accounted for 28.7 percent of total online traffic, more than double that of Android, which drove 12.2 percent of all online traffic. More importantly, iOS sales accounted for 17.4 percent of total online sales, more than four times that of Android, which drove 4.4 percent of all online sales.

I’m going to come at this from a different angle. Most of us are not made of money, but most of us spend more than we should. And most of us have large debts: credit cards and mortgages to name the two largest.

Based on the above findings by IBM, users with iPhones and iPads spend more time shopping and spend more money buying things during Cyber Monday. If your goal is to spend less time on your smartphone and spend less money on your smartphone, a simple trick might be to trade in your iPhone for an Android smartphone.

PS: I’ve used both and if I were to guess as to one of many reasons why iOS users tend to shop and buy more is because there are more shopping apps that are better — as in easier on the eyes and easier to shop and buy — on iOS than on Android.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite: Absolutely Frustrating

I haven’t posted anything for a while because I have been having problems with OS X 10.10 Yosemite on my 2009 MacBook Pro. I should have waited before upgrading to Yosemite. Online forums are filled with frustrated users who upgraded to Yosemite on their older Macs.

My MacBook Pro is sufficiently equipped to run Yosemite: 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, 8GB RAM, 50GB SSD & 1TB HDD. I haven’t been able to figure out what exactly is the cause, but when I have any programs running, say Safari, after some time — it could be minutes or hours, you never know — the thing would freeze. If it was sleeping it doesn’t come out of sleep. If it was not sleeping it doesn’t respond to any input. The only thing it responds to is a long press of the power button, a hard power down.

After powering down and powering up dozens of times a day I had had enough. All those Apple ads about snazzy looking Macs with happy people, and here I was, not so happy. Sure my MacBook Pro still looks pretty good, but what good is good looks when it keeps on freezing and you can’t do anything with it. I was getting frustrated. I was even angry at Tim Cook: Instead of keeping his eye on the ball — not that he is directly in charge of OS development — he’s been all over the news getting interviewed here and there talking up how hard Apple works to make hardware and software work seamlessly together blah blah blah. I wasn’t too happy with Jony Ive either, for the same reasons. I’ve been in a bad mood for several days.

So today I decided I’m going to either find a way to downgrade to Mavericks or get a new computer. And if I was forced to get a new computer it wasn’t going to be a Mac. After a few attempts, my Mac was not letting me downgrade, at least not on my primary boot drive. I’ll save you the geeky nitty gritty details. There was my 1TB storage drive though. After going through some long and detailed instructions, I managed to prep a 8GB USB drive into a OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks Install Disk. Now the 1TB hard drive is where the SuperDrive used to be, and it’s not the fastest connection. But I was so fed up with Yosemite, I decided I would much rather have slow-as-molasses and reliable than fast and totally unreliable. It took me the entire afternoon to backup all of my files from the 1TB internal hard drive to an external one; once all of my files were safely backed up I was ready to try to install OS X Mavericks unto my non-boot 1TB drive. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but it did! Yes it is slow — really stinkin’ slow — but I am happy I can be doing stuff again on my MacBook Pro.

I don’t know how long it will take Apple to sort this Yosemite mess, but I will not be booting into it until there is widespread confirmation from 2009 Mac users that Yosemite’s freezing problems have been fixed. I’ve learned my lesson: Apple no longer seems to wait to get everything right before launching. And I better not see Tim Cook or Jony Ive getting another interview before Yosemite is fixed.

WALTR: Natively Playback Any Video File On iPhone, iPad

I test drove WALTR, and it is awesome. I had an AVI movie file, and normally there is no easy way to play it on my iPad. Here’s the hard way:

Here’s the easy way:

To watch the video on my iPad all I need to launch is the built-in Videos app. WALTR can playback a lot of video formats: MP4, AVI, M4V, M4A, FLAC, WMA, etc. Get it.

The Most Color Accurate Mobile Display

Dr. Raymond Soneira conducted a study to find the most color accurate mobile display. He tested the six best mobile displays from DisplayMate’s Display Technology Shoot-Out article series over the last year: Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Microsoft Surface Pro 3, Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, Apple iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple iPad Air 2. The results… were in that order, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in Basic Screen Mode coming out on top.

AT&T Stops Using Undeletable Phone Tracking IDs; Verizon Continues

Julia Angwin, ProPublica:

AT&T says it has stopped its controversial practice of adding a hidden, undeletable tracking number to its mobile customers’ Internet activity.

Why would AT&T do this?

The tracking numbers can be used by sites to build a dossier about a person’s behavior on mobile devices – including which apps they use, what sites they visit and for how long.

Ah, to sell user data to advertisers.

Edmonds said AT&T may still launch a program to sell data collected by its tracking number, but that if and when it does, “customers will be able to opt out of the ad program and not have the numeric code inserted on their device.”

If AT&T is more interested in its customers than its advertisers — that’s a big if — wouldn’t it be better for AT&T to make the sale of your mobile activity data opt in, instead of opt out? And what about Verizon?

A Verizon spokeswoman says its tracking program is still continuing, but added “as with any program, we’re constantly evaluating.”

Verizon uses the tracking number to identify the users’ behavior and offer advertisers insights about users gleaned from that data. Verizon says the data it sells is not tied to a users’ identity.

Verizon does not seem to give a hoot about its customers. Something to think about: identifying a user with a single data point is difficult, but as you add more data points uncovering the identity of a user becomes easier. I’m relieved that I am not an AT&T or a Verizon customer.

Microsoft Office Free on Mobile Platforms

Microsoft Office is free on iOS and Android. At first I was excited, went to the app store, searched for Microsoft Office, and then almost downloaded the free apps. Almost. I realized I didn’t need Microsoft Office. I haven’t used Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in years. And I hope I never have to.

Which Messaging Technologies Are Truly Safe And Secure?

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):

The scorecard includes more than three dozen tools, including chat clients, text messaging apps, email applications, and technologies for voice and video calls. EFF examined them on seven factors, like whether the message is encrypted both in-transit and at the provider level, and if the code is audited and open to independent review. Six of these tools scored all seven stars, including ChatSecure, CryptoCat, Signal/Redphone, Silent Phone, Silent Text, and TextSecure. Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime products stood out as the best of the mass-market options, although neither currently provides complete protection against sophisticated, targeted forms of surveillance. Many options—including Google, Facebook, and Apple’s email products, Yahoo’s web and mobile chat, Secret, and WhatsApp—lack the end-to-end encryption that is necessary to protect against disclosure by the service provider. Several major messaging platforms, like QQ, Mxit, and the desktop version of Yahoo Messenger, have no encryption at all.

I’m going to try out some of these.

Nexus 9: Review by The Verge

Dan Seifert, The Verge:

The Nexus 9’s display might have the same resolution and aspect ratio as the iPad, but it’s not nearly as nice a screen. Colors aren’t as vibrant or appealing, the screen isn’t laminated to the glass as on the iPad Air 2, and the backlight bleeds into the edges of the screen in unsightly ways. It’s not a bad display by any means, but it feels appropriate for a $250 tablet, not something that starts at $400.

The display on the iPad Air 2 is now laminated unto the cover glass. The competition has moved forward. (Though the new iPad mini 3 continues to have an air gap between the two.) Once you get exposed to something better — like content seemingly right at your fingertips on a tablet — that becomes the new thing to beat, and the Nexus 9 falls short. So does the iPad mini 3.

Light leakage should be a thing of the past and it is disappointing to see manufacturers continuing to struggle with this, especially on a halo product like the Nexus 9. Perhaps replacing double sided tape with an adhesive to attach the backlight unit, which is what LG Display did with its slim bezel 5.3-inch LCD, would help.

LG Display: 0.7mm Bezel Full HD LCD Smartphone Panel

LG Display:

To realize the 0.7mm bezel width on the left and right sides of the panel, which is narrower than the 0.8mm thickness of a credit card, LG Display used its “Neo Edge” module processing technology and the world’s first “Advanced In-Cell Touch (AIT)” technology.

LG Display’s Neo Edge technology uses an adhesive instead of double-sided tape to attach and completely seal the total area and edges of the panel’s circuit board and backlight unit. Because there is no plastic guide panel to attach the panel and backlight, the Neo Edge technology helps achieve minimal bezel width, while blocking light leakage and being waterproof and dustproof.

The adhesive seal also prevents corrosion that sometimes occurs along the edge of the glass panel when double-sided tape is used, while dramatically improving the panel’s durability despite the narrow bezel because of increased elasticity as the adhesive hardens.

The company’s AIT technology, exclusively developed by LG Display, reduces the need for bezel space because the touch panel is embedded into the LCD module. The technology offers a slim design and excellent touch, while saving costs since a separate process for touch functions is not required.

Narrow left and right bezels, no light leakage, waterproof, dustproof, more durable, and costs less. What’s not to like.

I am assuming this thin bezel 5.3-inch LCD panel is targeting high-end smartphones, so the only thing I would like to see is a bump in pixel format from 1920×1080 to 2560×1440.

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