Kill Legacy Apple Software


Benedict Evans pointed out in a recent newsletter, “there’s a story to be written about Apple feeling its way from a piecemeal legacy technology stack for services, evolved bit by bit from the old iPod music store of a decade ago, to an actual new unified platform, something that it is apparently building.”

I’d argue for a focused set of decoupled applications, rather than a new unified platform. iTunes has bloated beyond practicality. The App store doesn’t work well for users or developers. Here’s where I think the future of these applications lies.

Continue reading

Affective Computing and Adaptive Help

Several months ago, I saw Dr. Rosalind Picard give a talk on Affective Computing. I took notes and thought a lot about what she said but let my thoughts fester rather than follow up on them. Then last week, I read Emotional Design by Donald A. Norman, which reminded me of Dr. Picard’s work and my initial thoughts about affective computing.

There are two elements to affective computing:

  • People interact with technology and devices as though it has a personality (and devices and interfaces without personalities can be distasteful to use).
  • Cameras, wearables, and other technology can be used to determine the emotions and affective responses of a person using technology with surprising accuracy.

Websites and applications are personalized by tracking your browsing history, collecting advertising preferences, device usage, and demographic data. Using affective computing, they could soon be personalized by tracking your emotions.

Continue reading

Discomfort, Trust, and Digital Selves

It’s been awhile. I’ve spent the last four months applying for new jobs, interviewing, getting hired, and moving from the midwest to the bay area. It’s been a long ride (drive, really). I’ve been out here three weeks now, and it still feels strange to call it my new home (new license plates on my car notwithstanding).

I’m a tech writer by trade, as I’ve alluded to/mentioned in the past with my post on Prescriptive Design and the Decline of Manuals, and I’ve so far enjoyed being in an area so tech-focused (though I do worry about the bubble).

Let’s get back into it, shall we?

Continue reading

Advertising Alternatives: It Pays to Be a Google Contributor

Earlier this week I got an email from Google.

My email invitation to join Google Contributor

One of my principles is to pay for things that I support. I can afford it, and things on the web are relatively cheap. Subscribing to ThinkUp, Pocket Premium, Feedly Pro, each cost about the same as a new pair of shoes, or a nice pair of jeans. To me, that’s a justifiable cost, so I pay it to keep the things I use and love alive.

Continue reading

Accessibility, Sound, and Communication

My birthday was yesterday! To celebrate, I ate an overly large and overly expensive steak and sorely undercooked brussels sprouts. Do yourself a favor and always roast brussels sprouts until they are caramelized and crunchy, then put some reduced apple cider and maple syrup on top. YUM!


Technology, while making the world more accessible than it has been in the past, has a lot of work to do for people with disabilities. A huge example of this is the shortcomings in OCR (optical character recognition) technology. In short, OCR sucks. And when we use it to simplify our lives (make a PDF into something that I can copy-paste into a text file), then when it fails it’s a minor inconvenience, and a silly one at that.

Just one problem. Continue reading

Dams, Fish, and Engineering Disasters

1870 Train on a Railroad

David W. Butterfield (American, 1844 – 1933) Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad, about 1870 – 1880, Albumen silver print 42.2 x 56.6 cm (16 5/8 x 22 5/16 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Once upon a time (okay, the first one was in 1871), fish were carted across America in railroad cars. Of course, this was terrible for native fish species, but great for fisherman looking to fish fish that were in demand.

More than a century later, a community around the Putah Creek in California rallied together to restore a creek that had run dry after the watershed was transformed by a dam and opportunistic farmers.

Continue reading