Windows in windows

Part of me really hopes that Apple end up shamelessly stealing the idea of what to do next with the tablet form factor from Microsoft rather than Samsung. Now we’re in the process of the transition to iPadOS, it’d be good to see the new branch of the iOS project explore something that’s not tied to a phone’s form factor.1

What’s mind-boggling is that Neo isn’t even a new idea — Microsoft first conceived of a dual-screen, foldable tablet all the way back in 2009 with the “Courier” project, which was a failed attempt to bring similar ideas to life. The Courier is legendary in the technology industry as a dream of how computing could look in the future, but most of us assumed the ideas had died when the project did.

Like many Microsoft projects, the company was simply dreaming too early. […]

Barring the industry waiting a few years to see whether Samsung et al can refine their folding-screen technology into something much more durable (and ideally much cheaper, so that the more-screen-space models don’t just become the premium option for the few who can afford them), it looks to me as if in the medium term Microsoft’s coordinating-two-screens-by-using-clever-software-rather-than-insisting-on-a-seamless-single-screen approach might well be the better way to go. As devices come with more real estate everyone’s going to have to figure out how to use that space best, beyond using it to display films and other visually-pleasing content in full-window apps.

Even on my current hardware2 I’ve appreciated the ability to use Slide Over and Split View and to drag-and-drop content from one app to another.3 Nevertheless, that can’t possibly be the end of the story. I have a sneaky feeling4 that one day the iOS family will sprout an always-on-display task switching/launching app much more flexible than what we currently put up with. Maybe that’s what my second screen is destined to be filled with. Only time (and a period when the different platforms are feeling free to experiment with the form factor and what that frees up) will tell.

George Lucas Astride a Mountain of Cash

If this is a joke or a spoof then someone is leaving it rather late in the day to spring a surprise on us all:

If the universe somehow arranged for a time traveller to pay a visit to young George Lucas just before he started filming Star Wars and show him that video1 then – after giving young George a few minutes time of jubilation at how handsomely his bright idea would pay off – wouldn’t even young George suggest that perhaps this adulation for all things Star Wars had all gone just a bit too far?

[Via @caitlinmoran, RT by @cstross]

Trek Tech Manuals (continued)…

Dan Hon, helpfully filling in some blanks in Starfleet’s documentation: Reporting Security Issues on the Federation Starship USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D

Keeping Your LCARS Account Secure

Federation LCARS computer systems use a sophisticated n-factor authentication system to allow access to ship systems. Permissions are role and context based with an underlying entitlement system.

In the interests of efficiency, each of these authentication systems and permissions can be overriden by employing a passphrase. To use this passphrase, you must use a Starfleet combadge and be in range of biometric sensors on a secure Federation network.

Your LCARS passphrase must include the following, in Federation Standard:

Examples:

“Computer, deactivate sandbox on critical ship computing settings, authorization Riker Alpha Forty Seven”

“Computer, disable all holodeck safety protocols, authorization La Forge Three Beta.”

“Computer, irrevocably transfer all command privileges to Ensign Wesley Crusher, authorization Picard Gamma Two.”

Starfleet crew are required to change their passphrase every seven years.

Oh boy, that last example passphrase suggests all sorts of unwelcome plot developments.1

[Via Things That Have Caught My Attention s07e04: Do Better]

iPad Borg?

One day I’m going to have to1 upgrade from my current iPad Mini 42 to some variant of an iPad Pro and I’m going to face the dilemma of how badly I want/need to turn my iPad into an iPad Borg:

The BoltHub essentially “bolts” – really, it sort of clamps – onto the top right of your iPad Pro in landscape orientation, with an ominous-looking, short-run USB-C cable connecting it to the USB-C input. Once attached the device gives you a 4K HDMI slot, one slot each for Micro SD and SD cards, a plain old USB 3.1 port running at 5GB/second (suitable for thumb drives), a USB-C passthrough port to make up for the one you gave up to attach the BoltHub, and even a 3.5mm audio jack to replace the one that Apple so bravely omitted.

Have to confess the iPad Borg designation fits the BoltHub so well and I’d completely missed it. The iPad design just doesn’t look like it needs anything added to it, and yet it so plainly does. The BoltHub looks so wrong, and yet they’ve clearly tried so hard to make it look as unobtrusive as it can given the hardware limitations.

I reckon that barring accidental damage I’m probably going to get at least another year’s use out of my iPad Mini 4 before either the feature set of iPadOS 14 or fading battery life on my current device forces my hand on a replacement machine. Who knows, perhaps by the time I have to face this Apple will have Sherlocked the makers of the BoltHub by offering a similar device of their own? Different vendor, same issue.

[Via Subtraction.com]

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh!

For some bizarre reason my copy of WordPress insists on truncating the post I’ve just made to http://soreeyes.org/2019/09/a-tool-using-animal/. I will probably be experimenting with alternative themes and so on over the next few hours until I get to the bottom of this. The entire post shows up just fine in preview, but is horribly truncated once published. The content is in WordPress OK, but something about how the installed theme wants to present that post is screwed up.

This is the sort of thing that prompted me to switch to Jekyll a few years ago: the seductive ease of use a CMS like WordPress offers just makes the inevitable betrayal when something goes wrong all the more infuriating…

Normal service will be resumed at some point.

[Update: fixed! Looks like something about my using ‘…’ carelessly upset my current theme. I may still spend some time today experimenting with different themes to see whether there’s a decent workaround for this limitation.]

A Tool Using Animal

Reading Wired’s Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online

At a time when we’re trying to figure out how to make the internet livable for humans, without exploiting other humans in the process, AO3 (AO3, to its friends) offers something the rest of tech could learn from.

… mostly served to remind me of how far the story was to some extent just echoing the story that Maciej Cegłowski told several years ago about the beautiful moment when Pinboard met fandom…

[In the wake of the owners of Del.icio.us deciding to redesign their user interface in such a way as to render Del.icio.us useless to a small but very important segment of fandom.] Being a canny businessman, I posted a gentle reminder that there was still a bookmarking site that let you search on a slash tag.

So fandom dispatched a probe to see if I was worth further study. The emissaries talked to me a bit and explained that my site was missing some features that fans relied on.

In my foolishness I asked, “Could you make me a list of those features? I’ll take a look, maybe some of it is easy to implement.”

Oh yes, they could make make a list.

I had summoned a very friendly Balrog.

Honestly, the full article/talk is very much worth reading.

[Via BrettTerpstra.com]

The Hooded Swan series

James Nicoll reminds us of Brian M. Stableford’s Hooded Swan series, which I adored back in the late 1970/early 1980s:

The Hooded Swan stories are gloomy and morose to the point of parody. If it were possible for space to be overcast and drizzling, it would be so everywhere Grainger goes.

I have to confess that I barely even noticed this. Then again, it was the 1970s and I was British.

[Stableford’s…] later work is more ambitious, but not always as enjoyable as these stories. Though perhaps “enjoyable” is not the right word. They’re readable. Perhaps they would have been more enjoyable if the protagonist hadn’t been an antisocial depressive.

If you are looking for morose space opera told from the point of view of a misanthrope, featuring puzzles with depressing answers, you might like this series.

I feel like being a fan of this series set me up to fully enjoy Ian M Banks’ Culture novels. The Banks novels were set in a very different universe and starred a very much more capable set of protagonists who would have looked on in amusement at the crudity of the technology that Grainger and co were blundering around using in their attempt to understand their little corner of the universe1 but it feels as if slumming it in the technological dark ages with Stableford’s crew was necessary for me to fully enjoy the very different view of the universe granted to the agents of the Culture.

Looking at history

Version Museum concentrates on the look of applications more than it does the story behind that redesign.

Version Museum showcases the visual history of popular websites, operating systems, applications, and games that have shaped our lives. Much like walking through a real-life museum, this site focuses on the design changes of historic versions of technology, rather than just the written history behind it.

It’s a pity the selection of applications is so limited right now, but what is there is covered pretty well.

Looking at the Microsoft Excel entry mostly reinforced how much I loathe the Ribbon interface. I don’t care how many studies Microsoft wave around proving that the average user prefers the way the Ribbon surfaces what Microsoft claim are the application’s most-used features. Taking away the user’s ability to add their most-used features to the Ribbon was (and remains to this day) a lousy idea.

[Via Daring Fireball]

I demand an Old Night spin-off

It’s a real shame that The OA reportedly won’t be returning for a third season:

Farewell to _The OA_, the Netflix series created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij and starring Marling, which lasted two ambitious, lopsided seasons. It told a story of alternate realities to which characters could travel by working through the rejected sections of a community mime class.

I had a horrible feeling that they were going to have a hell of a job moving on from the none-more-meta second season finale,1 but I’d have loved to see them try.