Thinkertry
“5-Hour Energy is Focus” Ad
Feb 19, 2014
Fun · Rant · Video

I’ve heard the audio version of this ad probably close to 100 times on Spotify, and I’m still dumbfounded by it.

What does this mean?

MOGA Ace Power iOS Controller
Nov 23, 2013
Design · Future · Gaming · Link · Rant · Tech · Video

Haven’t tried it, but it looks like a dud. The A/B/X/Y buttons click too much, there’s no headphone jack, the plastic quality isn’t great, it costs $100, and it isn’t going to attract enough developer attention to make adding gamepad support standard practice. It also has a reset switch, for whatever reason.

Not entirely related, but interesting to hear at 4:27:

You can play over AirPlay via mirroring, but the problem with that is the tiny, tiny lag between the controller and your iPod Touch and then all that getting blasted up into AirPlay and then down to your Apple TV and back to your TV, adds enough latency that it becomes pretty noticeable, especially in games where any kind of precision is valued.

The current implementation of AirPlay is fine for showing photos and videos to your family and occasionally mirroring your screen, but it isn’t good enough for gaming – when response time becomes extremely important.

AirPlay Direct, the thing I’ve been waiting for Apple to announce for over a year now, would be the solution to this problem. Both the Wii U GamePad and Xbox One controller utilize their own variations of WiFi Direct technology to offer extremely quick input with minimal lag, fast data throughput, and in the GamePad’s case, full display mirroring over the air. Bluetooth 4.0 would also work and be more power efficient (the PS4′s controller actually uses Bluetooth 2.1) but wouldn’t be appropriate for multi-screen interactions, which is what Apple would probably want. Xbox’s SmartGlass app uses WiFi Direct (when available) for this reason.

At this point my best guess is that AirPlay Direct will launch whenever Apple’s TV does. It would be useful for the many reasons I’ve mentioned previously, but the most obvious benefits are all TV and media-related. Here’s to late 2014

Wind Waker HD: 10 years old, and still amazing
Oct 25, 2013
Design · Future · Gaming · News · Rant · Stories · Tech · Video

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released 10 years ago for the Nintendo Gamecube. Many Zelda fans were skeptical of the game’s cel-shaded graphics, but as a Mario-playing 10-year-old at the time its cartoon-like quality was the perfect gateway into the Zelda franchise, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The HD remake released a few weeks ago is just that; the same game re-packaged and optimized for our HDTVs, with a few enhancements and tweaks that make it more fun for new players and pros alike.

So what did reviewers think of Nintendo’s decision to re-release a decade-old game?

IGN gave it an “Amazing” 9.8/10:

Some fondly remembered game designs have aged poorly, but if I didn’t know that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker came out 10 years ago on GameCube, it would be easy to believe that this HD re-release was a brand-new Wii U game. That’s how well this classic action adventure game holds up… Its admirable longevity stems from excellent combat, charming characters, fun side-quests, inventive dungeons, one of the series’ best stories, and a cel-shaded art style that, while divisive, still looks great. For the re-release, Nintendo made very smart decisions about what to update and what to leave alone….

As a returning fan, I couldn’t have asked for much of a better treatment. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD holds up as a marvelous game full of unique and wonderful surprises that remind me why it’s the best of the 3D Zeldas. If you’ve never braved this amazing seafaring adventure, the Wii U version offers the definitive way to experience a story that’s both charming and elegant.

Game Informer:

Every change Nintendo has made to this game is smart and serves a purpose, and I envy anyone that gets to experience The Wind Waker for the first time via this remake. It takes everything that made the original a classic and greatly improves on its visuals and quality of play. If you’re a fan of classic remakes, you can’t ask for much more.

Polygon:

Wind Waker HD is the definitive version of a modern classic.

I whiled dozens of hours away on the great ocean in the original GameCube release, and happily spent even longer with this prettier, better-paced iteration. That Wind Waker HD only needs a few minor tweaks to feel fully modern proves its lasting appeal — and to capture a feeling of adventure, like a kid in a world of endless possibility.

Take a look at the many other reviews on Metacritic, where its collective score is 90/100, compared to the 96/100 it got 10 years ago.

A 6 point reduction in 10 years’ time, for a game that took only 6 months to re-work? That’s pretty amazing.

This is exactly what Reggie Fils-Aime (Nintendo’s President and COO of Nintendo of America) talked about a couple of months ago, when he posited that the best (and hardest) way to solve the industry’s used games problem was to make better games that players would want to keep, and not trade in at Gamestop for $10-$15.

Reggie, via Polygon:

We understand that used games are a way for some consumers to monetize their games…. They will buy a game, play it, bring it back to their retailer to get credit for their next purchase. Certainly, that impacts games that are annualized and candidly also impacts games that are maybe undifferentiated much more than [it] impacts Nintendo content.

Why is that? Because the replayability of our content is super strong. The consumer wants to keep playing Mario Kart. The consumer want to keep playing New Super Mario Bros. They want to keep playing Pikmin. So we see that the trade-in frequency on Nintendo content is much less than the industry average – much, much less. So for us, we have been able to step back and say that we are not taking any technological means to impact trade-in and we are confident that if we build great content, then the consumer will not want to trade in our games.

Keep this game in mind when you read the next article about Nintendo’s struggle with the Wii U. Wind Waker was a game created for a console that many consider to be a dud, and 10 years later it’s one of the best games available on its current dud. Despite it all, Nintendo still made money on the Gamecube because of titles like Zelda, and if the culture that created Wind Waker still exists at Nintendo (which it does) we can be sure that similarly timeless games will eventually arrive for the Wii U.

Unfortunately, timeless games take a lot of time to make, which is why Nintendo is currently re-living its Gamecube nightmare. Great games fuel the entirety of Nintendo, and until more of them are released on the Wii U, sales of the console won’t change.

Personally, the next Smash Bros. may seal the deal, but we’ll see.

Thinking of a Nexus device? Always buy from Google Play.
Oct 24, 2013

Just two days prior to Apple’s Fall event (funny timing), my 3-month-old Nexus 7 (2013) died a quick and completely random death.

After using it to read and watch a few videos, I set it down on my desk and left it there for about an hour. When I picked it up again, the screen wouldn’t turn on. I plugged it in on the off-chance that it had somehow chewed through 63% off its battery in an hour, but still got nothing.

I followed the troubleshooting guide on Google’s Support site, including leaving the device plugged in for 10 hours, and still got nothing. It was dead.

I then called Google Play’s hardware support number, which gave me great support with the original Nexus 7. The woman who picked up sounded kinda tired, but she spoke English fluently and had me go over the same troubleshooting steps with her.

She then asked me where I bought the device from, and I came to a harsh realization; I bought it from Best Buy instead of Google Play. Crap.

She transferred me to Asus’s call center, where I spoke with someone who knew English, but clearly wasn’t based in the US.

You are from US, yes?

After going through the same troubleshooting steps a second time with him, along with a few more (holding all 3 buttons at the same time), he agreed that it needed servicing. We struggled to get my name, phone number, and address correct for a while, and then he sent me a (bad-looking) email with my next steps.

The whole (static-y) call took about 40 minutes (which isn’t too terrible), and I now need to box up my Nexus 7 and its charger and ship it to Texas for servicing. It’ll take a few days to get there, and 5-10 business days for them to finish fixing it. They gave me a special code I can use to check on the status of my device over the phone, and theoretically I should get the same (repaired) device back sometime next month.

Compare this with what Google did for me last year, when I purchased my device through Google Play:

I was extremely impressed with Google’s Nexus support. Imagine talking to an Apple Store employee (one of the nice ones) over the phone. That’s what it was like.

I called twice on two separate days and got Americans both times (a fantastic surprise), and they were both extremely personable, understanding and knowledgeable about their company’s policies and procedures. After telling the guy about my first Nexus’s flickering screen, he flat out admitted that it was an issue they were looking into, offered to ship a brand new one to my house, let me test it for multiple days, and return my old one without paying any shipping.

By buying through Google, I was given a new device straightaway and didn’t have any downtime, allowing me to transfer my stuff over and wipe the old device on my own before sending it in.

Now, I have no idea if I’ll ever see my same device again, and I need to trust Asus to wipe my old device if it’s unfix-able and (hopefully) do the right thing by sending me a new one and not a refurb.

Google’s support was as close to going to an Apple Store’s Genius Bar as an over-the-phone interaction could be. Asus’s is definitely not – they’re on par with most other companies.

If you’re thinking of buying a Nexus device, buy it online from Google Play – not from a retail outlet.

Windows 8.1 Kills SkyDrive’s “Fetch” Feature
Oct 19, 2013
Link · News · Rant · Tech

Windows 8.1 Removes SkyDrive Fetch

I tried using it today to grab a file and came across this:

Fetching files on a PC running Windows 8.1 isn’t supported. If you upgraded a PC to Windows 8.1, or no longer use the SkyDrive desktop app on a PC, you can remove the PC from the list.

This is a bummer – it was pretty neat to be able to browse your PC’s file system and stream/view/download stuff remotely, and now that functionality is completely gone.

No real explanation, just gone. Seems weird.

“Add To” in Android’s Share Menu
Oct 14, 2013

Here’s a frustrating Android quirk: the system-wide share menu is way too easy for self-righteous apps to game.

Dropbox, Plex, Pocket and Wunderlist all include “Add to” before their app name to artificially place themselves at the very top of the alphabetically-organized share screen. Windows 8′s Share charm instead places your most recently-used apps at the very top, which is a whole lot more convenient.

Windows 8 vs Android 4.2 Sharing

As always, there are apps that let you change this annoying behavior, but I’m tired of customizing stuff in Android – good design should come right out of the box. A built-in way of switching the share page between recently-used (by default) and alphabetical could be a good fix. Preventing app developers from adding the phrase “Add to” in their Share Intent might also be a good idea to ensure the alphabetical list is, indeed, alphabetical as it should be.

The relative importance of an app is for me to decide, not the app’s own developer.

Wunderlist, go back to the bottom.

“Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker”
Oct 14, 2013
Future · Link · News · Rant · Video

I’m frustrated by technology enough as it is, and now I’m increasingly becoming annoyed by politics as well. Feels fantastic.

Touchscreen lag: 54ms to go
Sep 21, 2013
Design · Future · Link · News · Rant · Tech · Video

According to a series of touchscreen tests conducted by the company Agawi, the time between the moment your finger touches an iPhone 5′s touchscreen and the moment the display changes is around 55 milliseconds. The two-year-old iPhone 4′s touchscreen has a lag of 85 milliseconds, while current top-of-the-line Android and Windows Phone devices (like the Samsung Galaxy S4) still have over 110 milliseconds of lag. They haven’t published iPhone 5S results yet, but I’d expect lag times to be even lower on Apple’s newest device.

I’ve complained about touchscreen lag before (back when nobody cared) so it’s nice to see the issue get some more recognition. As Microsoft’s “High Performance Touch” video perfectly demonstrates, touch delay is extremely important in finger-painting and drawing applications where even 10 milliseconds of lag can kill the illusion that your finger is physically changing something under the glass:

The tradeoff of having less screen lag is that the touch sensor has to refresh itself more frequently to check for the position of your finger, which can hurt battery life. Hopefully within the next 5-10 years our devices can achieve the magical 1 millisecond of lag demonstrated in the video; that’s when using a stylus to take notes and draw on a tablet will feel almost as good as using a pencil and a sheet of paper.

iPhone 5C Ads
Sep 21, 2013
Design · Fun · Future · News · Rant · Tech · Video

“Plastic Perfected” is great. Laffy Taffy-like goo calmly, slowly and patiently swirls into iPhone-shaped eye candy as the song perfectly concludes with “pick up the phone and ring ring, call ‘em up, tell ‘em ’bout the new trends.” Really nice and clean – particularly the banana purée. I’d really like to hold an iPhone 5C after seeing this ad, and that’s the whole point.

The 60-second “Designed Together” spot is a slightly tougher sell. Clearly the animators at Apple are very talented (see also: “Designed By Apple”) and they’ve succeeded in making a very fun and flashy promo for iOS 7 and the iPhone 5C. I like it, and I get it, but I’m not sure what the average TV viewer will get out of this (particularly without its subtitle).

The intended message seems to be that everything about the iPhone 5C and iOS 7, from the rounded corners to the color of each icon, seamlessly blend together because they were designed together. That’s great, but to me the combination of futuristic electro-pop, psychedelic colors, transforming shapes and fancy animations make me feel like I’m peering deep into the soul of Dribbble – where everything new is automatically great, and whoever disagrees obviously can’t recognize “good design” when they see it.

To me the ad seems to scream “NEW!” and “LOOK!” and “WE’RE DESIGNERS!” instead of respectfully demonstrating that iOS 7 has new look and feel to enjoy. Maybe if this were a shorter, 30-second spot with just the best parts included (no Game Center) then I would like it better, but for now it doesn’t sit quite right with me. It’s a little too… design snobbish.

The public’s awareness of what design is and why it’s important has never been greater. My fear is that by continuing to hit the public over the head with overly design-oriented ads like this, designers will (once again) be written off as hipster-like artists who’re obsessed with patting themselves on the back.

“Design” is increasingly being exploited as a whiz-bang marketing term when it’s actually a humble practice. If designers don’t fight to stop this trend, the public’s new-found respect for the field will be replaced with dismissive ire, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.

Mad Men’s final season will be split in two
Sep 17, 2013
Link · News · Rant

Welp

At least AMC is partially fixing their Breaking Bad mistake though; the two halves are called The Beginning and The End of an Era instead of just parts A and B like Breaking Bad. The names still aren’t very creative, but they’re better, and hopefully AMC will include the subtitles in their advertising. We’ll see.

From The Verge:

If you’re concerned about the implications AMC’s decision has for the quality of the final episodes of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, at least, appears to be looking forward to working on two separate parts of the last season. He says that “We plan to take advantage of this chance to have a more elaborate story told in two parts, which can resonate a little bit longer in the minds of our audience.”

“… and make more money for AMC in the end.” They always seem to forget that part.

Again, it’s a totally sensible thing for them to do from a business and money-making perspective, but until the final Collector’s Edition of Mad Men is available this temporary split will confuse/annoy people.

Years from now nobody will particularly care about the two parts to the final season and their made-up names; they’ll just see Netflix list 16 episodes in Season 7 of Mad Men and not think twice about it. At that point I can continue living happily; free from the burden of complaining about TV shows I don’t even watch.

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