Apple - Fix Your Crappy Power Supplies!

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I’m on my third power supply for my MacBook Air in 20 months.

Both ends of the cable went this time - it’s clearly too weak - or am I using it wrong?

You can tell just from looking at it it isn’t strong enough - I never had this issue with PC power supplies.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 — 2 notes   ()

AirAsia.com - Bad Usability by Design to Steal Your Money

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Budget airlines always try and rip you off, and add extras you often don’t want, like seat selection, food or checked bags (I always travel hand luggage only, and suggest you do too - recently having travelled a year this way - with 10 Tshirts and pairs of underpants included in the bag, if you’re wondering).

But this breathtaking abuse of website conventions and usability must be the best yet. We need a word for deliberately bad usability, designed to trick users into paying extra.

How about Abusability?

[Edit: Turns out there already is a term for this a ‘Dark Pattern’ - check out DarkPatterns.org]

Anyway, during the booking process there is a box vaguely covering insurance (above). My instinct is to uncheck the checkbox, a standard way to deselect something. But no - that is you accepting the Terms of the insurance, and if you uncheck it you get an error.

On flight 1 this fooled me into booking unwanted insurance. On a second flight I realised the grey on grey [ Cancel ] “button” didn’t actually cancel the form. It ‘cancels’ the insurance.

Usage of a ‘cancel’ ‘button’ (it’s not even a proper button) to deselect an element on a form is totally un-conventional. This is not the way people expect forms to work on the internet, and is -clearly- an attempt to rip users off.

This should be a checkbox, or drop down list.

There is no doubt here. This isn’t some absent minded web developer wanting to go home early on Friday. No - this is a room full of coked up execs at AirAsia.com - probably on their third bottle of Champagne, thinking “just how can we steal a bit more money from our customers”?

"We need to design a website form that confuses users to such an extent that they give us money they don’t want to, for insurance they don’t want or need"

"Getting money from selling insurance to our customers is like - free money [sips some Dom Pérignon] - lets press the button"

"Free money"

Guess what - you succeeded.

The problem is it makes you look like a bunch of dishonest criminal assholes.

I will be avoiding you in the future, I don’t like flying with people who are purposely trying to steal from me.

Is AirAssholes.com taken? I suggest you rebrand right now….

Sunday, January 26, 2014   ()

Why Apple iWatch wont use eInk

 

eInk Pros
Long battery life

eInk Cons
Low quality
Low speed


If Apple choose eInk the iWatch will have a long battery life (1 week+) - and will display the time 24/7. But it will suck at *everything else*. Phone control, simple web browsing, maps, photos, UI, responsiveness - it will all be a bit sucky like pebble.

Touching your iWatch to see the time is still better than taking your phone out. Perhaps it could display it 24/7 in a very low brightness mode?

If you’re charging your phone nightly, why not charge your iWatch too (also I don’t want to sleep in it so what’s the big deal).

The Sony Smart Watch uses OLED - I expect Apple to go that route, or a conventional LCD.

Saturday, July 13, 2013   ()

A 3 second productivity tip gets me hours more work done every week


Yes, yes - this probably sounds like one of those spammy link bait things - but I promise I just came up with this recently and it’s amazing.


You know the story - you have a split second of indecision of what to do on your computer so you click the Facebook, Twitter, News, [insert site here you spend too much time on] bookmark in your browser - and get sucked in.

So, for any sites you want to spend less time on, delete the bookmarks.

That’s it. From this:


To this:


You can always type the URL, but the added work does something magical. The effort of typing it makes it not worth doing in a casual way.

You can also make sure sites you want to spend more time on have prominent bookmarks.

Try it. I go on Facebook, Twitter and news sites way way less now. Used to be maybe 4 or 5 times a day. Now once every day or two (unless I have a specific reason).

I think this tells us a lot about human nature - make doing bad things inconvenient.

I’m getting hours more work done per week, literally. It’s amazing.

Thursday, June 27, 2013   ()

Why Strong Passwords Don’t Matter

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about how easy passwords are to crack.

Explanation

Sometimes, websites with lax security have their entire - or portions of, their database stolen. Best practice for databases is to salt & hash passwords (a one way process to obfuscate their value, while still allowing users to login). There are various ways to make that process stronger - and various techniques for ultimately finding out what people’s passwords are.

Great article over at Ars on this:
http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/05/how-crackers-make-minced-meat-out-of-your-passwords/?comments=1#reply

Where even passwords like ‘qeadzcwrsfxv1331’ or ‘momof3g8kids’ can be ‘hacked’ in a few hours.

Holy Shit

Panic! Right?

Actually, none of this matters. Not the excellent XKCD cartoon (top of this post - though I do agree passwords should be easy to remember), or what those hackers say.

There are only really 2 things to remember to be safe

1) Passwords should not be super easy to guess
Use multiple words (say 3), or include numbers or symbols and you almost certainly will never be hacked *directly on a website* (more on that in a minute). Just don’t use one of the first few hundred most common passwords.

2) NEVER use the same password on different sites
This is critical. If one site is compromised and hackers are able to crack your password and you’ve reused it - they could then gain access to your details on other websites.

Never use the same password twice - and getting your password for website X is totally useless to them.



There are two very different types of hacks here.

1) The whole database is stolen

In this scenario (eg Playstation Outage, 77 million records stolen) - the entire database is stolen. This means hackers already have most if not all the information you had stored on that website, because most of it *isn’t encrypted or hashed at all*.

Yes hackers can then spend days trying millions of cleverly devised passwords to find yours. But all they gain by doing that - is knowledge of what your password is.

If you don’t use your password elsewhere - this is completely useless information - they already have all your other information from the compromised website anyway - the password doesn’t get them anything else of value.

2) Logging into websites directly

The other option for hackers, is to directly login to a website as you. This is far harder than cracking passwords as above for two main reasons.

Firstly, due to the nature of the internet, trying a large number of combinations of username or email and password, will take a long time. Likely single number of tries per second (vs thousands when the hackers have the database).

And secondly, many websites implement access restrictions once you have a few incorrect password guesses - say 5 or 10. Or will start blocking your computer from logging in after many more.

This means a hacker might only get 10 or 20 guesses at your password before things slow down massively. Even if they have access to a botnet (co-opted computers under their control) - if an account is blocked, that doesn’t help.

You will almost certainly not be hacked this way unless your password is ridiculously bad (eg Monkey, or password1).

How you will be hacked

Far more likely, is a social engineering attack. For example - you get a Direct Message on twitter from a friend - you click the link and it looks like twitter so you login. But it wasn’t twitter, it was TWWTTER.com or something similar. It doesn’t matter how strong your password is in that situation, you just gave it to the bad guys.

This is the stuff we should be careful about.

Conclusion

So stop worrying about passwords, stop trying to out think hackers by adding a £ to your passwords - it’s all totally pointless. Make them unique, multiple random words and easily memorable and your ass if very well covered.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 — 3 notes   ()

Why Apple iWatch Beats Google Glass

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The road to retinal implants and face chips that clean our teeth starts here with wearable computing - the iWatch and Google Glass.

Incorporating 1 or 2 assumptions, here is the head to head:

Fixing a Problem

Why do we need wearable computing?

Personally, I listen to Podcasts & Music for several hours a day - often whilst walking, cycling or taking public transport around a city. I may take my phone out of my pocket to choose content to listen to, write a message, check messages, skip an ad, rewind something, look at a map (multiple times if I’m navigating somewhere) 50 or more times a day.

Each time I do I almost drop it, the earphone cable gets tangled, I have to unlock it, maybe type a code; in short it’s a total usability mess - and means you’re not paying attention to your situation (dangerous if driving or cycling - or walking on a pavement in most of Asia).

Here’s a look at some use cases…

Visibility

Glass is always there - iWatch can only be seen if you turn your wrist (but even that is far better than getting your phone out and unlocking it).

Whether ‘always on’ visibility is good or bad depends on your personality - and specific use.

Glass: 8

iWatch: 8

Control: Touch vs Voice

Unless Apple implement Knight Rider style Siri on the iWatch (which they might), here it’s touch vs voice. You can obviously do a lot more with touch, and you’re not irritating everyone around you, letting them know your private business, or susceptible to background noise interference.

Voice is also still in its infancy, you can do a lot less with it, less effectively.  Of course if you are driving or cycling or doing sport (Snowboarding anyone!)…. voice is great. But you could probably use an iWatch quite comfortably there too.

iWatch will have a small screen though so what it can do will be relatively limited.

Unless you’re driving - touch wins here.

Glass: 5

iWatch: 9

Display

iWatch may, for example, have a 1/3 curved retina display in it - that would give it a resolution of (1136/3 = 379 x 640). Compared to 640 x 360 of Google Glass.

Strangely it seems you can fit far less on a Glass screen (I’ve never used one personally).

It’s hard to say here without using either but they may be roughly equivalent, and probably quite small & restricted for at least a few years.

Glass: 5

iWatch: 5

Quantified Self

Awful phrase, but recording aspects of our everyday life is another exciting new area both these devices enable.

Some level of this is already available with smartphones - some including external hardware - such as products like Nike Plus or Fit Bit - or apps like Run Keeper which track runs or bike rides, telling you distance and estimating calories burned. 

Having something constantly in contact with your body (the Nike Fuelband already does this) - gives you even more activity data.

If you keep either device on at all times - the possibilities here are very exciting - and equally good for either device

iWatch: 8

Glass: 8

Use Cases - Face Off

(I have scored the winner 5 points in each category)

Choose music / podcast: iWatch should make it quick and easy to browse and select content with its touch interface. iW: 5

Play / Pause / Skip: Skip a track, forward past an ad, go back 30 seconds in an audiobook. iWatch is a comfortable winner here - even if these voice commands were available I’d much rather press something. iW: 5

Adjust Volume: Assuming you have earphones in connected directly to phone. Should be very easy to change on iWatch - glass, even if the voice command exists, no idea how they’d make that work half as well. iW: 5

Answer Call: Unless you always have earphones with a mic in - Glass wins here as it doubles as a bluetooth headset (battery allowing). GG: 5

Maps: iWatch should make looking up places on the map easier with touch - though actual navigation will be easier if it’s always visible. Turn by turn + voice in a car is a clear winner for GG, but overall - tie GG: 5 / iW: 5

Notifications: Whether you want notifications in your face 24/7 or not is a personal thing. I’d prefer to choose to look at a watch rather than be told in my eye (though I have very few notifications on in any case). Another tie GG: 5 / iW: 5

Recording Video / Photos: iWatch may have a front facing camera - making it good for calls. Glass has a camera that sees what you see. The latter will be far more useful, allowing you to capture moments you’d miss with a camera (I never use my iPhone front facing camera). Just avoid wearing it in the shower. GG: 5

Results

Glass: 46

iWatch: 55

Conclusion

It partially comes down to which eco system you’re committed to. If you’ve got an iPhone getting Glass will be hard - and iWatch probably wont work (at least fully) with any other phone.

Then it’s down to whether you prefer voice or touch. Touch gives you way more control, and is a lot more versatile, even on a small screen. I can see it being far more useful day to day than Glass.

The clear winner is iWatch.

Caveat: The main problem with Glass is its reliance on voice control - which isn’t appropriate for most situations. However, this is also a strength in some specific use cases, such as driving, cycling or various hands free industrial uses.

In those cases iWatch will already be an improvement & Glass with voice control will be revolutionary.

Either way this will be a fascinating fight, bring on WWDC.

(photo from The Verge)

Saturday, May 11, 2013   ()

Why Apple iWatch Will Be Awesome

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I’ve no idea why everyone is being so negative about the prospects for an iWatch.

Every day I probably get my iPhone 5 out of my pocket 50 or more times - each time the earphone cable gets tangled, I nearly drop it, have to spin it round, unlock it, maybe type a lock code, then find the right app.

This is slightly less of an issue if you use an earphone cable with volume  & a play/stop button (such as the awful shipped Apple earphones). But often that’s not an option with high end earphones.

75% of the time its for a trivial task.

Use Cases

Off the top of my head, an iWatch would be great for these use cases - and easily worth it for any 3:

  • Selecting a new tune or podcast to listen to.
  • Pause/Play audio.
  • Change volume.
  • Glance at a map while walking/driving/cycling.
  • Glance at a message or reminder.
  • Forward a podcast past an advert.

No One Wears a Watch

I keep hearing this as a reason why an iWatch is a bad idea. There’s some proper morons out there.

The iWatch will be a remote control for your phone - it’s not there to just tell the time.

The current situation of constantly taking out your phone is an awful user experience. If I can take my phone out 75% less during the day, it’s not only better - it’s safer.

The Status Quo is Broken 

Fiddling with a phone while driving, cycling or walking and not looking where you’re going = not ideal. A wrist mounted display is far quicker here.

Dropping it removing it from your pocket (how many times have we done that!), or getting it stolen from your hand while using it, or out of your pocket (happened to me) - all real problems.

Wearable is the future…

If Apple have put as many resources behind the iWatch as some say, and based on their record of designing stunning objects, I have no doubt this thing is going to be extremely useful to anyone who uses their phone heavily.

Some people just have no vision.

How it will stack up against the also exciting Google Glass when it’s released to consumers in 2014 will also be interesting to see. I think iGlass is inevitable within the next 5 years….

…and hey, having the time on your wrist is also quite useful…

Monday, May 6, 2013 — 1 note   ()

When will Apple fix iCloud Notes Syncing?

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I just can’t trust the notes app with important data anymore.

Notes syncing between MacOS & iOS over iCloud was always glitchy, and IT STILL IS.

The above happened yesterday, one note was duplicated 10 times for no apparent reason. Notes are also lost regularly.

Come on Apple this isn’t good enough, it’s also not rocket science.

Lets hope Mr Ive kicks some butts & sorts this out (even if it is more a technical than design issue, someone needs to acknowledge & fix this).

While you’re at it how about killing the skeumorphism yellow pad and comic sans?!

Saturday, March 16, 2013   ()

Who ‘designed’ Google Glass & how can we kill them?

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Who the f*** designed Google Glass?

The frames look like they’re off the glasses my 90 year old gran used to wear (with those transition lenses for extra ugly).

I thought Google got design now? Apparently it’s only their iOS team.

When is Apple Glass coming?

Saturday, March 9, 2013   ()

11 Ongoing Apple UX Fails

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Apple’s perfect right? Well, not quite….

Magsafe 2

Aaaaarrrghnnnnnneeeeeemmmmp.

I guess Jony Ive doesn’t use his laptop in bed, or ever rest it on his lap. Well a lot of us do - and its virtually impossible without the power cord coming out - even spawning additional plugs to stop it falling out like the Mag Stay:

http://www.thoughtout.biz/products/MagStay-PRO.html

This is a shocking design flaw. It was a problem with Magsafe 1 but has been made worse by a seeminly weaker magnetic connection, and going back to the T connector, which places the wire at right angles to the laptop.


Not auto-updating iOS Apps

WHY? I don’t even have that many apps, and I have to manually click ‘update’ every day at least once.

I can see no reason for this (surely not bandwidth?).

If you’re going to put an app on everyone’s device (rather than a website), your life is already a lot harder as a developer. Ensuring everyone has the latest version of the app automatically helps users, developers - everyone. At least give us the option to auto-update, or allow devs to force updates.


iPhone lock screen (play/pause, back, forward)

If your phone is locked & you’re playing music, the buttons are way too close together. Constantly I click forward or back on a track by accident, instead of play/pause, and have for years. There’s space - just move the buttons further apart.


Turn off Cell, Keep WiFi on

Every night for the past 4 years I have put my phone on flight mode, then gone into wifi and re-enabled it - because you can’t turn the cell off - and keep wifi on (which I might like to do before I go to sleep, but not get woken by the cell).

It’s a constant, small irritation.


iTunes

iTunes is the dirty, smelly, unshaven dude of MacOS - sitting in the corner, resplendent in a thigh high pile of his own faeces. Only flies love him.

The new iTunes 11 has some nice elements - but you know what they say about polishing a turd. It’s yet more crap, layered on top of code that’s clearly ancient (just try right clicking on a song - then left clicking). And what’s with the tiny display?

Start again with a totally new app - maybe run it parallel to iTunes for a couple of years and hey - how about subscription audio?


Lack of Cases

My Bauhaus inspired MacBook Air, has a wetsuit case. WTF. What case does Jony Ive use on his laptop?

How many people have a cheap novelty case on their iPhone - partly because there’s no gorgeous Apple option?

I’ve never understood this - a good case is an integral, daily part of the user experience. You started with the iPad case, finish the job.


AppleTV Apps

Samsung TV’s have, here in the UK anyway, a BBC iPlayer App, Channel 4 and ITV (free to air channels - with iOS apps already). The AppleTV has virtually no useful apps. What about games?

If Apple are working on this area - why not move that forward now, it’s a no brainer.


AppleTV ALWAYS drops out

Enough said - it’s never been reliable to me. Neither has AirPlay/AirTunes - always dropping out or not being discoverable at all, on various networks. Very un-Apple.


Skeuomorphism

I’ve written about Skeumorphism before

Forstall is gone, Ive is in charge - hopefully this is gone for good


iCloud

Why can’t I backup / sync my Mac with iCloud? (like Dropbox)? Why can’t I share files on it? It seems like Apple did a lot of boring stuff with iCloud, without any of the cool stuff. It still feels glitchy, when I restore my phone for example, it suggests 5 email addresses for each service I have to log into - of other people?!

The notes App is STILL losing notes. I sync notes across MacOS & my iPhone 5.

Before iOS 6 it lost synched notes *all the time* - which can be serious. It improved a lot but this still has a bug and has lost 2 notes over the last 2 days. This isn’t rocket science Apple - why do you keep screwing this up?


Keys

Is it alt, option or some unmemorable symbol ⌥ (that’s not even on the key). Is it the Apple key (where’s the Apple symbol gone?) or the command key or the other weird squiggle key?

How many frikking names do you need for each key? Why have a symbol for each but only put one on the command key?

Why isn’t there a delete key (in PC parlance - there is only a backspace key). This makes text editing WAY more efficient - I have used a key remapping program to do this to my | key (but this is not without issues).


'Right' Clicking

There is no good way to right click (or control click) on a Mac Trackpad. Having used a Mac as my only machine for 6 months, Windows is still better at this.

Two finger tapping is a little slower (I find fractionally staggering the impact of both fingers helps reliability but slows things down) - and doesn’t always work. You can map it to the right side of the track pad but that’s a long way over and not clearly marked in either a visual or tactile way.

I just don’t trust right click on Macs, often doing it multiple times if I get no response.


Maximizing windows

Another area that’s better in Windows. Maximize fills the whole screen area (without going full screen). No brainer, copy it from Windows (like you did with resizing windows from any corner).


No 3G/4G in laptops

Windows laptops have had sim card slots in for 5+ years now. I have to think this is coming but having a cheap plasticy dongle hanging out of my Air is gross; super inelegant - and it wont even fit in when the magsafe 2 power is in.


Podcasting iOS App

It took Apple years to come up with an app on iOS that allowed you to download podcasts directly. When it came out - it was awful, didn’t work on iPhone 4, crashed all the time and was full of ridiculous skeuomorphism. A tiny codeshop created Downcast - which was available years earlier and kills it - Bizarre.

iOS Stagnation

It looks basically the same as when it launched in 2007. A grid of icons. Others, specially Windows phone are doing a lot of interesting stuff with live tiles.

Now Ive has taken over all human interface design at apple, I expect to see some innovation.

oh did I say 11? Sorry they kept coming…

Friday, December 21, 2012 — 5 notes   ()