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12th February 2020
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The Essential Blog:

In October, we introduced Project GEM, a new mobile experience that our hardware, software and cloud teams have been building and testing for the past few years. Our vision was to invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people’s lifestyle needs. Despite our best efforts, we’ve now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential.

I was intrigued when Essential first announced their phone in 2017, enough to write an article about it.

It’s interesting to read what I wrote in that post nearly 3 years ago:

While I don’t think this phone will be for everybody, it’s another competitor, and that can only be a good thing for the industry.

In principle I like the Essential phone, but I just can’t imagine myself switching to Android (this is a deeper problem I’ll expand upon in the future). I would of preferred it to run a separate operating system, but I do respect the amount of work that would take to build, not even thinking about the app ecosystem.

However it is a step in the right direction for Android phones, which I believe was started by the Google Pixel. In my mind, android phones were all about quantity, and not necessarily being the best devices. But it’s started to take a different course, and it’s only for the best.

5th February 2020
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Ryan Christoffel, writing at MacStories:

As first spotted by Steve Troughton-Smith, release notes for the latest beta build of Xcode include a major development: Mac apps can soon be included as universal purchases with their iPhone and iPad companions.

I think this has been a long time coming, and we’ll probably start to see even more unification of the App Stores soon.

From a personal perspective this is also quite interesting. As I have a universal (iOS and iPadOS) version of Text Case, and also a separate macOS version. So right now you need to pay separately for each version. Selling them as one entirely universal app would either mean giving one away “for free”, or increasing the price. Alternatively, a bundle may be the better easy to go.

4th February 2020
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Zoe Kleinman, writing for BBC News:

The amount of young phone owners doubled between the ages of nine and 10, which Ofcom dubbed “the age of digital independence”.

In addition, 24% of 3 and 4-year-olds had their own tablet, and 15% of them were allowed to take it to bed.

This doesn’t seem to bad to me. A smartphone gives people access to the vast quantities of information available on the internet, entertainment in the forms of games, videos, etc. and also a tool for communication with their friends and parents.

But there’s always at least one quote in these types of articles, to try and prompt a bit of outrage. Here we have one about not recognising the difference between the real world and online:

“I’m conscious that for these children who have never known a world without the internet, in many respects their online and offline worlds are indistinguishable.”

And also one trying to prompt outrage at the suitability for content on the internet for children:

“We are seeing around half of 12-15 year olds saying they have seen hateful content online, and an increase in parents who are concerned about it,” said Yih-Choung Teh.

I think the problem is not that children have access to mobile computing devices, but rather some parents tend to think that they don’t need to control their child’s usage of such devices. You look after them in the physical world, so surely you’d expect to do the same in the digital world.

Back before smartphones were a thing, people grew up without constant access to the digital world. But now they are so ubiquitous, it’s obvious that more younger people will have access to smartphones, and especially the vast internet. I think the responsibility falls on the shoulders of both the parents, the education system, and also the various content platforms.

However, I don’t think the fact that children use the internet, means that the entire web needs to be child friendly.

3rd February 2020
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Quaid Najmi, writing for the India News section of The Weather Channel:

From Friday (January 31, 2020), it has installed decibel meters at certain select but heavy traffic signals to deter the habitual honkers through a campaign named ‘The Punishing Signal’.

Joint Police Commissioner (Traffic) Madhukar Pandey said that the decibel monitors are connected to traffic signals around the island city, and when the cacophony exceeds the dangerous 85-decibel mark due to needless honking, the signal timer resets, entailing a double waiting time for all vehicles.

This is absolutely brilliant.

1st February 2020
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Matt Birchler, with his 10 year review of the iPad:

10 years ago the iPad was “about to replace the personal computer.”

Today the iPad is “about to replace the personal computer.”

10 years from now I suspect the iPad will be “about to replace the personal computer.”

Meanwhile, people like me and millions of others will continue to work on an iPad, not really trying to prove a point, just trying to use the best tool for us.

When Steve Jobs debuted the iPad in 2010, he described it as a device that would live between a laptop and a smartphone. By that measure, I think the iPad has more than lived up to that positioning, and I don’t think anyone would disagree. It’s more capable than an iPhone, but not as capable as a Mac.

I’m with Matt on this one.

Whether the iPad can replace whatever “computer” you have currently, it doesn’t diminish its use for other people. Where I see the iPad now, is that it is simply another computer, just another option with different advantages and drawbacks. A few years ago I would have edged towards the perspective of the three devices (iPhone, iPad, and Mac) having a certain order of capability, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.

The iPad has its drawbacks, sure, but it’s also a relatively young device. From where the iPad started 10 years ago, to where it is now, it’s pretty impressive in my opinion. Especially when you have people running their entire business from an iPad.

31st January 2020
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Matthew Butterick, on the use of ligatures:

Ligatures in programming fonts—a misguided trend I was hoping would collapse under its own illogic. But it persists. Let me save you some time—

Ligatures in programming fonts are a terrible idea.

And not because I’m a purist or a grump. (Some days, but not today.) Programming code has special semantic considerations. Ligatures in programming fonts are likely to either misrepresent the meaning of the code, or cause miscues among readers. So in the end, even if they’re cute, the risk of error isn’t worth it.

His post certainly opened my mind up to the problems with ligatures in a programming font. It actually made me switch away from the new monospaced typeface from JetBrains, simply because of its use of ligatures, 138 code-specific ligatures to be exact.

Back to SF Mono it is.

(via Daring Fireball)

7th January 2020
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Jay Peters, writing at The Verge:

Today, at Samsung’s keynote at CES, Samsung introduced Ballie, a small ball-shaped robot intended to help you around the house. Samsung says Ballie utilizes AI to be a security robot, a fitness assistant, a tool to help seniors connect with smart devices in their homes, and it can even be a friend to your kids and pets.

In an onstage demo, Ballie followed Samsung consumer electronics division CEO H.S. Kim on the stage by rolling around, seemingly by using the camera to track Kim as he walked across the stage. Ballie also gave cute little robotic chimes in response to a couple of commands from Kim, and it even rolled right into Kim’s hands when he called for it.

I need one.

I don’t care about it opening the blinds, turning on TVs, or anything. I want a little robot that can make whimsical noises, look remotely like a BB8, play with my cat, and do absolutely nothing else.

Where do I send my money?

5th January 2020
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Bob Yirka, writing at Phys.org:

Three researchers from the University of Oxford and the South Iceland Nature Research Centre have found evidence of tool use by puffins—the first evidence of tool use by any seabird. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Annette Fayet, Erpur Snær Hansen and Dora Biro describe their evidence of puffins using sticks to scratch a part of their body.

[…]

The researchers note that the bird in their recording lived on Grimsey Island in Iceland, where birds suffer from parasites in their plumage. They further note that last year was known to be a particularly bad year for tick infestations. They suggest using a sharp stick might have been more effective at removing the pests than beaks. They also note that because they witnessed tool use in two locations separated by a wide distance, it appears likely that tool use among puffins is common.