Archive for Visual Evidence

iWhat?

So. Apple is going to add a wearable device to their iOS family today. But Tim Cook’s vow to “double down on secrecy” was more that just boastful talk, and no one seems to have even the faintest idea of what the thing is going to be, do, or look like. So the absence of any real data, let’s take a look at what the competition (and in 66% of these examples, the word “competition” is being used incredibly loosely) is doing and how that might relate to what we see in a couple of hours.

Samsung Galaxy GearExhibit 1: Galaxy Gear

Look. If you were to make a laundry list of all the things a wearable/smartwatch shouldn’t be, the Gear would probably rack up a perfect score. To wit:

  • It probably shouldn’t be useless without being connected to a second device at all times.
  • If it is connected to a second device, it should do more than just parrot that device’s functionality.
  • If it does parrot the functions of a second device, it shouldn’t make those functions more difficult to perform.
  • It shouldn’t be fucking ugly.

And, running down the scorecard we see … wow. Four for four.  Great in baseball … got so much in consumer devices.  It’s probably not a coincidence that Samsung has released 6 different models in the last 3 months and all of them have quickly gone from retailing for over 200 bucks being given away free with the purchase of another device or service.  Oops.

And did I mention that it’s fucking ugly?

Motorola 270, er, 360Exhibit 2: Moto 360

This is a much better effort. If nothing else, it’s a nicely understated design – something you wouldn’t actually feel like a glasshole for wearing in public. Sadly, it fails on a couple of key points. One, its fairly huge. It looks like a nice watch until you actually put it on your wrist … and then, unless you are the local neighbourhood barbarian, it looks like a Giant Tech Bangle. Er, fail.

Worse, the batteries need to be charged up at least twice a day, something that is an unpardonable sin for a wearable. Wearables have to be constant and unobtrusive. If you have to actively interact with the thing for either basic functionality or (worse) to manage it’s systems, you are looking at a device that ends up in the bottom of a drawer fairly quickly.

As an aside, someone should also tell Motorola what “360″ really means. For some odd reason the designers couldn’t deal with placement of the display drivers and optical sensors without cutting into the face of the device, leaving that odd chord of dead space at the bottom of the display. Worse, their marketing people then photoshopped a complete face into the device in the marketing materials, so pictures on the web site and in the packages they hand out to the media show something significantly different than what the device really is. I guess the more accurate name of “Motorola 270″ was already taken. Oops.

Withings ActivitéExhibit 3: Withings Activé

Now we are getting somewhere. Run back up to the “checklist of fail” – where the Galaxy Gear batted 1.000, the Withings dances through with aplomb. It adds new and useful functions to your existing device, it provides useful information in an unobtrusive and pervasive way, the batter lasts for a year, and its absolutely gorgeous.

This is a device that you would want to wear all day, every day, even if you didn’t know what it did. From top to bottom, this is a winner.

Exhibit 4: Apple Something-or-other

No idea. At all. But you take a look at the three notable entries above, the chances are a extremely high that it will be a lot closer to the Withings Activé that either of the unusable mutts that Samsung and Motorola have coughed up.

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Blackberry Passport – September 24

The gang up in Waterloo sent out this cryptic invitation yesterday:

event-three-up-1Very secret. Very mysterious. What could it mean?

It means the launch of the Blackberry Passport, that’s what it means. Make no mistake – the Passport appears to be an extremely nice device. If you are well and truly welded to the idea of a physical keyboard, then this is about the absolute best solution for a pocket computer that will still let developers and users offer up a proper touch-screen experience. It might be a tad too large for easy one-handed use, a bit too wide and pointy to be pocketable, but those are quibbles. This is a solid piece of hardware.

Blackberry PassportIn fact, if Blackberry hadn’t been rendered moribund by short-sighted stubbornness at the top (I’m lookin’ at you, Mike) and this phone had been released 4 years ago, there is a very good chance that Blackberry might still be a relevant player in the mobile devices game. Even now, this might have a decent impact … but not if it gets lost in the shuffle of big releases from Samsung and Apple in the first half of the month.

So why the secrecy? You want people thinking about and talking about this device now. You want people interested in trying (and buying!) this device before the new new handsets from the biggest two players in the game hit the stores … it almost seems that Blackberry has given up on anyone who has moved to another platform, and is content to target their existing users.

Memo To The Waterloo Posse: When your pool of existing users is in the shrinking single-digit percentage of the market, that might not be the greatest strategy. You need to make noise about this, and you need to make it now.

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Canada Day Ramblings, Part 2

Truth be told, I am not a Blue Jays fan. I like baseball, but my team is the Tigers. Grew up with the Tigers, love the Tigers, will be a Tigers fan until they shove me into a shallow grave.

Except on Canada Day.

Blue Jays, red shirts - it's Canada Day!I’m always ready to cheer for the Toronto nine on birthday of the nation simply because they bust out the awesome red-and-white togs and top it off with the big maple leaf on the cap. The Jays had to fight for years to get a home date and afternoon start time on Canada Day (major league baseball then, as now, was particularly brain-dead when it comes to the fact that Canada is not some small town in Iowa) and it’s only right to give the team their due for doing it right.

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NBC’s Bullshit-Laden Entirely Contrived Panic-Inducing “Sochi Personal Electronics Hacking Exposé” Is A Journalistic Embarassment

Sorry about the rather unwieldy headline, there. But really, there was no other way to approach this. Brian Williams of NBC – who used to be a real journalist and should definitely know better – put together this breathless report from Sochi that shows personal electronics being remotely compromised with malware and accessed by crackers within minutes of landing at the airport in Sochi. In the video you see a phone being “automatically” being taken over as soon as they turn it on, and two brand-new Macbook Pros being compromised just by turning them on at the hotel and leaving them running for an hour.

It’s the kind of thing that is frightening for average computer users and will get lots and lots of clicks and links and shares and oh my god this is awful what will we do?!?!

Except that the entire thing is a self-created and purposely staged sham, verging on a complete fabrication.

If you watch the unedited video, the whole thing is actually laughable
. Instead of the phone “automatically” downloading malware, the reporters followed an URL to an unknown site and then installed the linked software themselves. Whether or not it was even (as claimed by their security “expert”) malware is debatable, since they never actually said what the linked file was. And the Macbooks that were “remotely accessed while just sitting there”? They manually opened a file that was attached to an unknown email. And bypassed the system warnings telling them not to open it.

The whole thing is a farce. But you will see dozens and dozens of links to it today. Because that is what tech “journalism” has been reduced to. Fabricated bullshit laced with fear, in a sad and desperate attempt to get a few clicks.

Shame, Brian Williams. Shame.

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Mega Huge Football Game Ads

There was a time when Super Bowl ads were shrouded in secrecy … hush-hush and kept under wraps until the moment they were released to a breathless audience during the Big Game. Then Volkswagen realized that they could short circuit the whole thing by releasing their ad on YouTube a week early and getting millions of views for free. This was, as they say, a game-changer.

Pun intended.

Mercedes-Benz upped the ante last year with internet-only release the “feature-length” version of their spot, and now the gloves are off. Pretty much everyone is either releasing their ad, their teaser, their trailer, or their “making of” video now. Including Newcastle’s “making of the teaser for the trailer of the mega huge football ad that with could have made” which is quite frankly the best of the lot, hands down.

The only problem is keeping track of it all, and the gang over at Fast Company has you covered with the full roster of everything released so far, with thumbnail analysis and constantly updated as new stuff hits. Just the ticket for a completely unproductive end of the week. Enjoy.

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Apple Drops The (Snow)ball

Let’s just state the obvious first: Apple’s 2013 Christmas commercial is mostly brilliant. It looks great, it hits just the right balance of traditional sappiness .vs. modern cool, and it has a really nice twist-and-payoff ending. Better, the footage you see in the “finished product” was actually shot and edited on an iPhone 5S … a small but crucial distinction that is a big deal but really doesn’t seem to matter to other companies cough cough Nokia Samsung Blackberry cough.

But … there is a single glaring flaw in the commercial that sort of torpedoes the whole thing. When we see slacker kid constantly at his phone and seemingly ignoring the family, he is always holding the phone in portrait mode. But when the video plays, almost all of it is in landscape. Once you notice it, it becomes jarring and almost laughable, pretty much permanently spoiling any magic the spot could have otherwise woven. It’s also inexcusable, since the twist would not have been given way in any sort of manner by having the kid hold the phone correctly … kids oblivious to the world around them while holding phones in landscape mode are an entirely common sight.

I understand that the fenderheads at the average ad agency would have missed this one small yet wildly important detail. But someone at the top levels at Apple had to approve this ad, and they have no excuse for missing such a boneheaded misstep. It could have been one of the great soft-sell spots of all time. Instead, it’s 60 seconds of landscape fail.

Inexcusable. Period.

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Western Media, Explained

If you ever needed a nutshell course in how media works and what their priorities really are … it’s your lucky day. How the various media arms react to the Asteroid Apocalypse Of 2014 is not only wickedly hilarious … it’s also deadly accurate.

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The Mac Power Cord Double Wrap

Damn. Like everyone else commenting on this … why did I never figure this out?

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Reuters – Photos Of The Year 2013

The end of any calendar year always means year-end reviews from the assorted news agencies around the globe. The best of these are always the “year in photos” retrospectives and Reuters is first out of the gate with an amazing collection of some seriously powerful images. You should probably be aware that there are some rather graphic items in here … it’s easy to forget that we live in a hell of a nasty world.

It’s also stuff that needs to be shown. Every time someone tries to save a couple of bucks by shopping for cheap-ass “Joe Fresh” clothes at Loblaws, they should have to look at this picture first. In fact, Galen Weston – and his kids – should have to look at this every single day.

TIP: Click on the “View All Images” link under the first picture to browse through without the annoyance of a slideshow.

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Instant Art Lesson

How to draw a butt. The perfect addition to any Christmas card, really.

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