Archive for World o’ Web

New York Times – Sad, Desperate, And Laughable

If there are still any lingering doubts about the sad state of desperation and irrelevance that now grips the New York Times, they will be forever put to rest this weekend. The “blockbuster” centerpiece of this upcoming weekend’s New York Times Magazine is an “expose” on the supposedly shameful behaviour of Apple as they trick you into buying consumer devices that don’t (gasp!) last forever. I’m not going to link to the essay … it’s obviously little more than link-bait and the wild flailings of a publication that is desperate for anything that will bring them a few eyeballs and some temporary notoriety. But there is an excellent discussion of the piece on Gizmodo today and it is definitely worth a read, if only for a few laughs and some fresh insight into how far gone the mainstream print media really is.

Next week, the Times will probably take television manufacturers to task for not building HDTV capabilities into the models they built in 1982. Shocking!

Baseball, Money, And The Correct Way To Report News In The Digital Age

This insanely great infographic showed up on Bloomberg today. It’s notable for two reasons: First, it is all sorts of interesting, especially when you start to sort by things other than straight value. Sorting by wins is an especial eye-opener. And two, every dumbfuck editor and publisher in the newspaper biz that still thinks simply re-publishing the content of print editions online is somehow acceptable – read, all of them – needs to be shown this and then slapped in the back of the head repeatedly until they realize that this is how you both report and publish news in the digital age.

Your reporters gather your information with the idea from the start that it will be published visually and interactively. Your designers use visual and interactive features to allow the reader to understand and explore the story behind the data. And then, and only then, do you re-purpose what you can for your dead-tree editions.

Slap, slap, slap.

Astroturfing for BBM

You may remember that Blackberry’s first attempt to get BBM into the rest of the handset world turned into a bit of disaster. Sadly, it only took two days for the second attempt to also go badly, badly wrong.

Someone has been astroturfing the Android marketplaces with thousands of cut-and-paste “reviews” of the product. All positive, all with exactly the same wording. Some, apparently, complete with extra text from the original messages instructing the users how to paste the fake reviews online.

Yikes.

I like to think that at the corporate level Blackberry honestly has nothing to do with this – this sort of sleaze is usually reserved for unsavoury companies like Samsung and Rogers and The Toronto Star – but there have been incidents in the past where an eager staffer up in Waterloo does something on their own that comes back to haunt the company.

Blackberry is officially denying any involvement, but this still ends up as a black eye for the company at a time when it is pretty much the last thing they need.

NOTE: The iOS App Store is free from these so far, but that is not a real surprise: Marketplace scams are far more common in the Android world, and there are both an automated and human-level review processes attached to the iOS store designed to catch duplicate reviews for exactly this reason. I’ve heard from a couple of people in the know, however, that there have been no similar reviews submitted to the iOS store, at least not yet. That makes it almost certain that this is something that comes from outside of Blackberry and the company has nothing to do with it. Sadly, however, they are the ones getting tarred and feathered here. They deserve better.

Blackberry’s “Open Letter”

You probably read the “open letter” from the folks up in Waterloo this week. And after you were done laughing, you went on with your daily whatever. Not so over at Maclean’s, though. Scott Feschuk decided to channel his Inner Gruber and read between the lines. Kudos.

Interestingly, one of the cornerstones of Blackberry’s “not dead yet” message is that lots and lots of people on other platforms want to get on Blackberry Messenger whenever it is actually announced. Which means … what? With no possible monetization, the only possible goal here is to somehow slow the defection of existing users. And if simply slowing down the tide of lost business is now the centerpiece of your business strategy, well, yikes. With a capital “Y”.

(Thanks to Smartie Red for the tip!)

Touch ID & The “Secure Enclave”

Great piece over at 9 to 5 Mac today about the concepts behind the “secure enclave” section of the new A7 chip and how it manages the biometric data and systems associated with Apple’s new Touch ID. This was written up in greater detail on Quora yesterday, but Quora requires registration to read anything and that might have kept some people from getting into the story. This breaks it down in easy chunks and it comes complete with helpful diagrams. Definitely worth a read.

Coast For iPad

Coast for iPad has quietly landed on the App Store, and it’s going to change the way that you think about using the web on a mobile device. It’s from the gang at Opera and while it doesn’t replace Opera – it’s being called an experiment – it stomps all over some of the basic concepts or a browser UX and could just be the kind of thing that shakes up the marketplace for everyone.

It might be more apropos to say that Coast doesn’t replace Opera … yet.

The biggest and most visible change is that there is virtually no chrome on the screen at all. No back buttons, no share buttons, no search button, no URL, pretty much no nothin’. There is the standard iOS status bar at the top and a grand total of two small screen buttons at the bottom. One takes you “home” – although this would be more properly called a “hub” with your bookmarks, history, and search functions all sharing this space – and the other breaks out and lets you navigate between your current open pages. The pages are shows in the old iOS 6 side-by-side format instead of the new iOS 7 card stack but since Coast uses the WebKit engine for all of it’s display and connectivity functions it will be interesting to see if this swaps over to the iOS 7 standard later this month. Unfortunately, I am not using iOS 7 on my iPad and there is no version of Coast for pocket iOS devices so … who knows.

Once you get past the initial fumbling around you will find that Coast is not easy and fun, it’s also seamless and elegant. The page is all content and the device just sort of fades away from your consciousness. It gives browsing the same transparent and natural feel that you get when you read a book on a really good e-reader. And despite having to go to the “home/hub/whatever you wanna call it” to get to all of your extended navigation functions there are no added clicks or gestures to actually do anything, and the visual presentation of those functions is more intuitive than the individual icons and buttons of a standard mobile browser. Instead of remember what this or that button does, you just remember to go home. After that everything is insanely obvious.

Personally, my favourite touch is that the single-field URL bar / search bar that is the new standard in browsers has it’s results visually broken out into two streams as you type. You still have a single input field, but the idea that you are both searching and navigating at the same time is suddenly obvious and more … human. A close second is the way that standard “tap-and-hold” functions are displayed, with a curved set of buttons that both draws the eye and intuitively suggests interaction.

And hey – “favicons” are suddenly kind of useful. Who knew?

The whole thing adds up to an experience that puts you in a state of less thinking, more doing. And doing is good. Do yourself a favour and give it a try. You might find yourself floundering. But you might also find yourself enjoying this a lot. I think the guys at Opera should stop calling this an experiment and start calling this their future.

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Flightradar 24

This is the single coolest thing I have seen on the web in a very long time. Real time (mostly, see below) graphic flight data from damn near every airplane in the air right now, with no Flash or Java in sight. This is, quite frankly, brilliant. For extra time-suck fun, you can click on any individual flight to get a detailed information breakout.

The web version is free (with some unobtrusive ads) and there are paid versions for all of the surviving players in the mobile market – iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile – as well as a paid ad-free upgrade for the browser version and a native app for OS X.

Interesting aside: There are two kinds of flight representations – yellow icons which are being fed from actual real-time ABS broadcast data, and orange icons which are coming from the FAA databases in the U.S. and are on a five-minute delay. While flights in European and Asian airspace seem to uniformly offering real-time data, only a handful of flights in North American skies can say the same. Weird.

Google Glass – Hypocritical AND Creepy!

Google has spent a lot of time and effort trying to convoke people that Google Glass isn’t at all creepy, invasive, annoying, or an outright affront to privacy. And it seems to be working, because no one seems to be expressing any real concerns about the thing, or banning the device from their facilities or events.

Well, no one except Google themselves.

Twice.

Transportation Shithead Authority

Anyone who is capable of even the smallest bit of independent thought realizes that the Transportation Safety Authority has nothing at all to do with stopping terrorism. It is just the most visible arm of The Great American Boogeyman Machine, the vast employment and infrastructure complex that has arisen to prop up the American economy in the absence of the financial engine that was the Cold War. The TSA is nothing more than the frontman, the organization that helps keep Americans in a state of fear by reminding them that the boogeyman is out there – a state of fear that the U.S. government needs to justify and excuse its ongoing destruction of its own citizens’ freedoms, liberties, and constitutional rights.

It’s “security theatre”, a big slice of arrogant bullying that is designed to keep the people it supposedly protects in line. And even the players in this little stage show know it … instead of taking their “crucial” jobs a Protectors Of Freedom seriously, they spend most of their time stealing, breaking the rules, taking bribes, and sleeping on the job.

The home of the brave, indeed.

Hyperloop? Or Hyperhype?

The tech press is all agog this morning with “details” having been leaked about a new ultra-high-speed transit initiative called the “Hyperloop”. Why? I have no idea. Even the most cursory look at the information leaves you scratching your head, not the least of which is the notoriously unreliable and decidedly weak power source. Kudos to Sebastian Anthony for treating this with the skepticism it deserves.

When you get right down to it, it makes no sense at all. But because the promoter is the founder of a floundering tech company that has yet to live up to even a fraction of its potential, people are all over this. I’m all for new tech, but this? Sorry, don’t buy it. I’ll be happy to eat crow on August 12 but something tells me I won’t need to clear a spot on my plate.