Thinkertry
Google+ auto-awesome’d my first few weeks in college
Nov 14, 2013

As I was setting up my newly-repaired Nexus 7 today, Google+ informed me that it had gone ahead and made an Auto Awesome video compilation of some photos and video clips I took during my first few weeks in college. The result was too magical for me not to share.

The perfectly-timed drumming, the bull-riding, the seizure-inducing light show, the dramatic reappearance of the bull rider, the drunken first-person view of the laser party – all of it is gold, and probably funny only to me.

Thanks for the memories Google+.

Note: Please pardon the quality. All of this was taken on a 5 MP iPhone 4 camera back in 2011 which was only capable of 720p. Google also stabilized portions of the video (which explains the psychedelic waves) and it’s all compressed as well. Not the best video ever, but certainly the best one I’ve (kinda-sorta) made.

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.

Looking back at CES 2012
Aug 27, 2013

This being the 8th month of 2013 and all, now seems like a great time to share what my experience was like on show floor of CES 2012. Sure, I could have published this back in February of last year like I had originally planned, but then it would’ve been swept up in all the post-CES noise and be quickly forgotten. That’s why I’m putting this up so late…

Here’s the video I uploaded on January 20th, 2012 (recorded on an iPhone 4 without any stabilization, sorry, I’m not The Verge) that I think does a decent job of conveying the feeling of being at CES:

Humongous hallways, rows and rows of shiny booths, screens everywhere, 3D stuff flying around, people dancing, robots – that’s the kind of stuff you see everywhere at CES, and if you ever find yourself going to Best Buy just to “see what’s new”, then you’d definitely enjoy attending sometime.

A few extra things to note that weren’t totally covered in the video:

1) The buildings are absolutely enormous

The booths and showrooms are sprawled across three enormous conference halls connected with similarly large hallways that share an equally big parking lot. According to Wikipedia it’s one of, if not the largest convention centers in the world with 8,000 m² of floor space (3,200,000 sq ft). That’s a lot of carpet to traverse, and by the end of the second day of nonstop standing your legs get pretty darn tired. Many booths start packing their things up by the middle of the third day – nobody feels like walking around at that point, and people have typically either already heard about or seen everything they came for.

2) It’s very flashy, but engineers are actually there

I saw more engineers than booth babes at the show, and that was actually a nice surprise. Walking among all the flashing lights and blaring speakers were the people who actually built the devices that would become available later in the year. A cool fellow I know over at the suspiciously similarly-named TinkerTry.com took full advantage of such a rare opportunity, and it’s definitely a great place to network and work on partnerships.

3) Everybody loves the press

Walking around CES with a “Press” badge around your neck is kinda like going to Six Flags with a Flash Pass. When you want to see or try something, you get to see or try the heck out of that something, especially if you brought a camera along with you. The event may be about “consumer” electronics, but the press are what attract so many vendors to Vegas each year (although the cheap iPhone case-makers in the back are usually just there to get purchased by sun glass-wearing Chinese manufacturing agents, who walk around looking for the most valuable pickups).

4) A lot of interesting presentations and talks happen

I didn’t expect to see anything other than a bunch of booths at CES, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a lot of interesting talks and sessions go on in the rooms upstairs. One of the panels I attended was all about batteries and how we’ll charge them up in the future, which I mentioned in my wireless charging post a while back.

It’s neat being able to see and talk to so many people in the consumer tech industry in-person at one event, and I think that’s another reason why it’s so popular. At one point I was able to ask an OnLive employee why their iPad app was so delayed and watch him get frustrated as he hinted at Apple’s in-app purchase policies.

Here’s some video commentary if you’d like to read along while you watch:

00:00 – Looking at everything from a standing position doesn’t really do the size of this place justice. And yes, Beats Audio was there, although I don’t know what compelled me to point that out.

00:21 - Microsoft’s area was right next to Intel’s and looked very neat. It was kind of hard to care about the Windows 7 laptops they had on display with Windows 8 right around the corner, though.

00:43 – Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt did a few interviews at the event, defending the fragmentation of Android soon after the launch of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Those were the days when he was still saying a new creepy thing each month.

00:54 – Sometimes things go wrong during live demos, but when your latest unreleased product gets lost in the extremely high rafters it’s particularly funny.

01:24 – Ford’s booth was definitely a futuristic looker. The techno-bloop ambiance and robotic car were pretty nice, but then the annoyingly generic video started blaring on about “BLUETOOTH AUDIO!” and the car’s passenger side view mirror bounced like cheap rubbery plastic. I left soon after that.

02:14 – Engadget was there debating whether or not Windows Phone users would feel more more comfortable with Windows 8 (the “halo” effect that’s often noted about Apple products). The only person I recognized was Tim Stevens (who looked bored, and is now gone).

02:30 – A Kinect-powered skateboard was there. I never actually got to watch someone use it, but Engadget did.

02:44 – 3D, 4K and OLED were the big buzzwords of the event, and screens were absolutely everywhere.

03:01 – LG’s Magic Remote was a terrible piece of junk. This is probably the last time you’ll see a company attempt motion-based controls like this.

03:27 – Slicing 3D fruit with your hands is mildly interesting. I never saw the booth attendant again after Day 1 – she must have been ridiculously bored by Day 3.

04:01Gakai was still its own company back then, and honestly their demo was pretty impressive.

04:18 – You see a lot of random and weird stuff like this at CES. A mouse that doubles as an image scanner is neat, but with the desktop fading away I don’t think many people are interested in upgrading to a new and improved scanner mouse.

04:28 –  The demos of Windows 8 that Microsoft gave were pretty good and well-rehearsed, but they didn’t show off anything the press didn’t already know about.

04:53 – Nokia actually took the time to create fake demo content for their Windows Phones, and I loved that. Apple has been doing that in their stores for many years, and it was nice to see another company do the same. Nothing at Best Buy ever gives you as good idea of what the device would be like to actually use, and they’re only connected to the internet if you’re lucky. This was great, and it made the phone more fun to try out.

Also, listen to the Nokia guy in the background. Android devices were kinda like PCs at that time – it wasn’t until very recently that they’ve become even close to as fast and fluid as iOS (or Windows Phone) devices. The battery issues he notes are true of basically every phone out there, though – in my experience Windows Phones aren’t significantly better in that regard.

05:34 – I saw Josh Topolsky and Nilay Patel in-person at their ‘Arguing the Future’ supersession and sat next to Vlad Savov while he took photos. That was pretty neat.

06:19 – Intel’s booth was one of the first booths people saw when they entered the venue, and I have to say the glowing lights and screens overhead were pretty impressive. Their ultrabooks were all running Windows 7 though, which was kind of a bummer.

06:35 - Samsung’s marketing guy represented his company well…

06:49 – You see a lot of weird stuff in Vegas at night. During the day things are pretty normal (although everything looks fake and poorly-constructed) but at night the buildings all light up and people hand you dirty handouts at every corner.

07:05 – Let’s see if Frank Sinatra’s label decides to put an ad on my video. They haven’t so far.

07:38 – The Lumia 900 looked fully functional but the Nokia rep wouldn’t let anyone else hold it.

07:55 – The AR Drone 2.0 booth was very well-done, and demonstrated its product well.

08:21 – My town’s annual Corn Fest has a similar foot-powered guy, except he’s an obese cookie who tries to grab your hand.

08:28 – The MakerBot and 3D printing in general was an up-and-coming movement at that point, though I can’t say their booth was particularly exciting to look at.

08:40Ubuntu’s Unity television UI was actually pretty decent and seemingly faster than the Apple TV. The video-scrubbing UI was a noticeable improvement but not quite perfect. I suspect the next Apple TV’s scrubbing UI will look similar.

09:28 –  Liquipel’s competitor NeverWet ended up falling a bit short of expectations.

09:37 – Yup, a guy in a robot suit making people laugh. Lots of stuff like that.

10:01 – The nearly imperceptible screen lag of 3M’s multitouch display felt way better than any tablet I’ve used. Taking notes with a stylus will feel a whole lot better whenever this makes its way into the iPad.

10:45 – I don’t know.

11:05 – The Fulton Innovations booth is what got me so excited about Qi. The magazine idea isn’t a good one (think of all the wasted copper) but I like the possibilities of Qi and similar tech. There are still many benefits of wired options like Lightning, though.

13:03 – By the end of Day 2 you feel a lot like that Sphero ball falling off the ramp.

13:13 – LG’s enormous 3D show was pretty cool to watch (but their Magic Remote was still crap).

Ashton Kutcher at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards
Aug 12, 2013

Some credit is deserved here.

Ashton (Chris) Kutcher won the Ultimate Choice Award (think lifetime achievement) at the Teen Choice Awards last night, but instead of endlessly thanking everyone for their support and giving shout-outs, he decided to speak seriously for a few minutes and offer a few life tips to the thousands of young, impressionable teens who were watching.

He made 3 distinct points, and presented them in a way very similar to Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford. Having recently studied Jobs’ life for his own portrayal of Steve in an upcoming biopic, that’s not a surprise.

Here’s a transcript:

In Hollywood and in the industry and the stuff we do, there’s a lot of like insider secrets to keeping your career going, and a lot of insider secrets to making things tick. And I feel like a fraud.

My name is actually not even Ashton. Ashton is my middle name. My first name’s Chris. It always has been. It got changed when I was like 19 and I became an actor, but there are some really amazing things that I learned when I was Chris, and I wanted to share those things with you guys because I think it’s helped me be here today.

It’s really 3 things. The first thing is about opportunity. The second thing is about being sexy. And the third thing is about living life.

So first opportunity. I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13 I had my first job with my Dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job in a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job, and every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.

Number two. Being sexy. The sexiest thing in the entire world, is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less, so don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful, and be generous.

The third thing is something that I just re-learned when I was making this movie about Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get in too much trouble, and maybe get an education and get a job and make some money and have a family, but life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people who are no smarter than you, and you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in.

So build a life. Don’t live one, build one. Find your opportunities, and always be sexy. I love you guys.

Random cries of “AAaaA!”, “I love you!” and “Take it off!” may have distracted some teens from his message, but I bet that at least a few of last night’s viewers will keep what he said in the back of their minds. The surprise “being sexy is being smart” twist and idea of making your own life instead of living in someone else’s seemed particularly well-received. Ashton successfully channeled Jobs’ powerful stage presence for a different generation, and it’s kind of awesome to see.

Serious kudos to Kutcher for turning one of his last moments at the teen-oriented podium into something more useful than yet another appeal to sexiness and acting stupid, particularly at an event that concluded with the world’s largest teen twerking session (seriously, what the heck was that?)

“Surprisingly, touchscreen laptops don’t suck”
Nov 30, 2012

I laughed when I read the headline, and I have to agree.

Sean Hollister, The Verge:

With Windows 8, touchscreens are more relevant than ever before. However, some pundits have long believed that a touchscreen simply doesn’t belong on a laptop. Sometimes, they quote Steve Jobs. “Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical.” That’s Jobs in 2010, telling the world why Apple notebooks wouldn’t feature the technology.

“You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user.” That one’s from Tim Cook earlier this year, explaining the company’s stance on convertible tablet PCs.

These were the opinions of the leaders of the most profitable tech company in the world. I believed them myself. And yet somehow, neither of them have kept me from instinctively, repeatedly touching the screen of my MacBook Air this month.

I review laptops for The Verge, and recently I’ve been using a string of Windows 8 touchscreen computers. I was prepared for disappointment from day one — prepared to say that while certain Windows 8 gestures are easier with a touchscreen, the overall idea isn’t very good. I was prepared to write that the Windows 8 interface was forcing unnecessary touchscreen controls on people who wouldn’t appreciate them, particularly if they were simply grafted onto a traditional laptop.

But the more I’ve used Windows 8, despite its faults, the more I’ve become convinced that touchscreens are the future — even vertical ones.

This morning I gave a group presentation in front of my class titled, “Tap vs Click: Comparing the efficiency and costs/benefits of digital and physical interfaces”. Over the past few weeks we’ve been reading research paper upon research paper comparing touchscreens and the mouse, and we ultimately came to the same conclusion Sean did:

We’ve been looking at this all wrong. A touchscreen isn’t a replacement for a keyboard or mouse, it’s a complement.

In the same way the mouse didn’t fully replace the keyboard (for obvious reasons), touch displays aren’t going to fully replace the mouse/trackpad either. There’s a lot to love about the mouse cursor’s accuracy and precision, and although touch is lowering the complexity of everyday computing to an unprecedented level, it’s not that great in multi-window Desktop environments. Touch isn’t the end-all-be-all computer interface – it just enables some really nice things we’ve never had before. Gestures like pinch-to-zoom or pull-to-refresh, for example, make doing certain things more enjoyable and, well, kinda fun – something that can’t be said very often of the mouse or keyboard.

People didn’t like the mouse, either

Here’s an old usability video of a person using a mouse with Windows ’95 (from Building Windows 8), notice how much trouble he has with double-clicking. Compare that to the 2-year-olds who use iPads today.

While we were putting together our presentation, we came across a quote from John C. Dvorak back from the 1980′s – a time when the keyboard (and its hundreds of shortcuts) was king and the mouse was unwelcome:

Apple makes the arrogant assumption of thinking that it knows what you want and need. It, unfortunately, leaves the “why” out of the equation — as in “why would I want this?” The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a “mouse”. There is no evidence that people want to use these things.

I don’t want to single out Dvorak here – this seemed to be the general sentiment back in the day. Obviously people ended up accepting the mouse, but not because it could do anything more quickly/efficiently than the keyboard; it was the combination of an understandable GUI with folders and clickable icons that eventually made computing more enjoyable and accessible.

Now, in the new age of touchable operating systems like iOS, Android and Windows 8, we’re seeing yet another shift in the way computers look and feel, and we’re hearing a lot of the same kinds of criticism. With all of the above in mind, maybe it’s time to argue less about which input method is a half-second faster than the other and accept that people will end up doing whatever feels right to them in the situation they’re in. Don’t bother arguing with a person who prefers to tap on their laptop’s screen to switch apps instead of using the trackpad – you’re going to look like a mouse-hating keyboard enthusiast from the 1980′s.

Want to fly around New York City? Pinch-to-zoom on a touchscreen is fantastic for that. Need to crank out a term paper or edit something in Photoshop? Turn on your wireless mouse and keyboard and get started.

Nothing is getting killed or replaced in the near future – we’re just enthusiastically exploring the capabilities of the newest member in the input method family.

Typing Speed Test: iPhone vs iPad vs Keyboard
Oct 30, 2012

I’m a sophomore college student, and I haven’t used a laptop in about a year and half. Crazy right?

I haven’t written about this yet, but a few weeks before starting my freshman year of college I decided to replace my aging laptop (which only lasted 30 minutes on a full charge) not with a brand new $1,000+ laptop that would last 4-5 hours, but a $500 iPad 2 that lasted more than 10. I needed something I could take notes during class with, and the iPad turned out to be the perfect tool for that. Someday I’ll delve into the nitty gritty of how the iPad has been helping me get through college – right now I want to discuss one of the biggest misconceptions about typing on a large, non-tactile 10″ display: that it’s crappy and slow. For some people it isn’t, and I’m one of those people.

Pseudo-Scientific Method

On November 17th, 2011 a friend of mine suspected that, for most people, typing on the iPad wasn’t significantly slower than typing on a physical keyboard. Up until that point I had been carrying a bluetooth Apple keyboard with me to each of my classes because, like many people, I figured that typing on the screen would be too darn slow. I was skeptical, so to prove him wrong I did a spur-of-the-moment test. Turns out, I was the one who had it all wrong. That’s always a cool result.

To test my typing speed on the iPhone, iPad screen and keyboard I used the TapTyping app by Flairify. It’s more of a tutoring thing, but it has a speed test function that’s pretty decent. Each test has 3, 2-3 sentence chunks of text you need to quickly type with as few errors as possible (no auto-correct, keep in mind). I intentionally didn’t do multiple trials for each input method: I didn’t want familiarity with any one pre-canned sentence to skew my result. This was about periodically looking away from the keyboard to read (like I do in class) and typing things down, often at the same time. Seems like a hard thing to do without physical keys to align your fingers with, doesn’t it? It is – only future tech can fix this.

2011 Results

I took the test on my iPhone while seated, with my arms resting on my knees. I typed on the iPad’s screen with it in “typing mode” on a desk, and I typed on a bluetooth keyboard with the iPad in “standing mode” in front of me on the same desk. The results?

iPhone: 57 wpm

iPad: 60 wpm

Keyboard: 71 wpm

At the time, I was only 11 wpm (words per minute) slower on the iPad’s screen than with the keyboard. According to Wikipedia’s page on WPM:

In one study of average computer users, the average rate for transcription was 33 words per minute, and 19 words per minute for composition. In the same study, when the group was divided into “fast”, “moderate” and “slow” groups, the average speeds were 40 wpm, 35 wpm, and 23 wpm respectively.

An average professional typist types usually in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other time-sensitive typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120 wpm.

I decided my typing speed on an iPad wasn’t bad at all, and since then my bluetooth keyboard hasn’t left my dorm room. As I learned, this was actually a good thing – figuring out how to put a keyboard and an iPad on one of those small flip-down desks in lecture halls was always a problem.

2012 Results

iPad Typing Speed

Last night someone asked me how I was able to take extensive class notes on my iPad without falling behind, telling me that my lack of a laptop was, “like something out of an Apple commercial.”

That reminded me of the test I took last year, and I decided to do the exact same thing again. This is how I fared this time:

iPhone: 51 wpm

iPad: 75 wpm

Keyboard: 82 wpm

Remarkably, my iPad speed has improved by 15 wpm after two semester’s worth of using it for notes. My keyboard speed also improved by 11 wpm (always nice), but unfortunately my iPhone speed went down by 6 wpm. I didn’t want to cheat and re-do my iPhone test for the sake of honesty, but I suspect my slowdown was due to the fact that I’m not quite used to the iPhone 5′s larger size quite yet. If I re-took this test a month from now I think I’ll be back up to speed.

Update 4/29/2013: Yup, my speed on the iPhone 5 is now 63 wpm using the same app and methodology.

Conclusion

Obviously I’m just one data point, but after a year of using the iPad’s on-screen keyboard I’m pretty shocked to see that I can now type faster on my iPad than I could on a keyboard just a year ago. I completely understand why many people (like those with longer nails or many adults older than me) don’t think they can (or just plain can’t) type as fast on an iPad as they can with a physical keyboard, but after experiencing this improvement first-hand I’d say the physical keyboard as we know it may not be quite as necessary in the future as it is today.

I’m not confident that I’ll be able to reach 100+ wpm given the touch technology we have today, but there’s a good chance that I could with the Surface’s Touch Cover or maybe even a tactile touch screen. We’ll see, but for now I’d encourage you to test out your own touchscreen typing speed – you might not be as slow as you think.

Temporary Thoughts
Oct 22, 2012

Jason Fried recalling a bit of advice that Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) gave to him and his group:

He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today….

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a well formed point of view, but it means you should consider your point of view as temporary.

A really short piece (read the rest of it too), but an important idea to always keep in mind.

I used to worry about this very thing when I started writing here more seriously. Would Thinkertry, a public place intended to help me organize and clarify my thoughts, end up making me too heavily invested in potentially wrong ideas? Would I someday “mess up” by changing my position on something and be called out as a hypocrite?

Eventually I decided that I would never be able to write anything if I was afraid of being wrong. That fear would paralyze me, and this site wouldn’t exist. I alluded to this in Dopey Ideas, and it’s still true.

Looking at my thoughts so far, I already know that I’ve gotten some things wrong. Wireless charging might be “here” but it definitely isn’t “ready” because significant developments like adaptive resonance (which lets multiple devices charge on one pad) are still rapidly being made. And while I suspect that AirPlay Direct is real and could be coming within the next year or two, I could be totally wrong about that entire concept too.

Eating some of John Gruber’s internet-famous Claim Chowder may sting from time to time, but I would rather be wrong, learn from it and admit it than declare to the world that, “the only thing I’m obsessed with is being right, all the time.”

I write for Thinkertry and attend college for the same reason: I know I’m not as good as I can be, and I want to learn how to get better.

Update: Funny, immediately after posting this I came across a piece on the fear of not knowing (and how it induces lying) by Leah Hager Cohen. Some good thoughts there, and a hat tip to Rian van der Merwe who does a great job finding and discussing this kind of stuff.

Sam Sommers: Situations Matter
Oct 7, 2012

Sam Sommers was my Social Psychology professor last semester, and he gave a TEDx talk back in May that summarizes the most important concept we learned: context is is everything.

From the video’s description:

One of the strongest influences to shape human nature is also one that we usually overlook: context. Where we are, who we’re with, and what’s going on in our lives at any given moment transform what we think, how we act, and who we really are. Sam Sommers tells us what you can learn from your next situation.

You’re eating in the cafeteria when you hear a loud sound. You look over and see that some guy dropped his tray and all his food. Everybody around you laughs.

Is this guy just a clumsy person in general, or do you think the dehydration-induced vertigo he’s experiencing may have something to do with it?

As humans, we’re far more likely to jump to the first conclusion than bother spending the mental energy to consider the second. Kinda sad, but a good thing to be aware of and keep in mind.

“Sweep the Sleaze”
Oct 7, 2012

Oliver Reichenstein:

Promising to make you look wired and magically promote your content in social networks, the Like, Retweet, and +1 buttons occupy a good spot on pretty much every page of the World Wide Web. Because of this, almost every major site and world brand is providing free advertising for Twitter and Facebook. But do these buttons work? It’s hard to say. What we know for sure is that these magic buttons promote their own brands — and that they tend to make you look a little desperate. Not too desperate, just a little bit.

He then goes into a multitude of convincing reasons why they’re not so great. This one sealed the deal for me:

In a medium full of advertisement and self-promotion, every unnecessary pixel of noise and “click-me!”-begging should be avoided if it can be. The less noise, the less begging, the less secondary advertisement means the easier it is to focus, and the more likely it is that people will actually read your content.

This post is the reason why Thinkertry v3 ditched social media junk completely.

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