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.

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]

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]

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]

Casting

It’d be nice to think that we live in the timeline where the most noteworthy effect of Deepfakes will be to swap one Hollywood actor for another but somehow I doubt we’re going to be that lucky:

In some parallel universe, there’s a version of Casino Royale with Hugh Jackman playing everyone’s favorite suave British agent, James Bond. And one in which Matthew McConaughey took the Leo role in Titanic. And DiCaprio and Brad Pitt co-starred in Brokeback Mountain. And Saved by the Bell’s Tiffani Thiessen played Rachel in Friends.

That being said, I have to confess that the biggest effect of my watching Neo-as-played-by-Bruce-Lee having Morpheus ask him if he thinks that’s air he’s breathing now in the digital dojo was a powerful urge to see the best film the Wachowskis ever made again, as it’s been way too long since I last saw The Matrix and it was definitely indisputably very good, whatever you might think of the two sequels plus The Animatrix 1 that followed it. So from Hollywood’s point of view that’s a success, insofar as right now The Matrix isn’t on Netflix and my DVD copies are long since gone so I’m going to have to go and pay someone some money to watch it again. Ka-ching!

[Via The RISKS Digest]

AutoCorrect for your face

Once iOS 13 gets rolled out later this year, I think the prospect of AutoCorrect for your face is going to prompt a great deal of debate:

Why should my phone decide where I should be looking?

Kevin Kelly in a slightly different context, looks forward to a future where the system gets that crucial 10% better at automagically adjusting what it shows the person you’re communicating with rather than faithfully presenting what the camera/microphone at your end of the connection are picking up. It’s all for your own good really:

When a colleague is teleporting in from a remote place to appear virtually, it is relatively easy to translate what they are saying in real time because all that information is being captured anyway. For even greater verisimilitude, their mouth movement can be reconfigured to match what they are saying in translation so it really feels they are speaking your language. It might be even be use[d] to overcome heavy accents in the same language. Going further, the same technology could simply translate your voice into one that was a different gender, or more musical, or improved in some way. It would be your “best” voice. Some relationships might prefer to meet this way all the time because the ease of communication was greater than in real life.

Ease of communication being greater than in real life may not be worth having if the price of that ease is accuracy. Kelly (and Apple, implicitly) assumes that technology can be trusted to be our intermediary, but our experience of AutoCorrect operating on plain text tends to suggest otherwise.

[Rachel Coldicutt tweet via [Interconnected)]

… to the Moon

By some margin the most welcome effect of the media blitz as the Apollo 11 anniversary has come round is that HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon has been rereleased in HD:

Throughout the miniseries, there are scenes where astronauts, engineers, NASA administrators, politicians, and more list all the challenges facing Kennedy’s promise to put American boots on the lunar surface before 1970. In a great scene in the debut episode – titled, plainly, “Can We Do This?” – flight director Chris Kraft (Stephen Root) lists all the tasks NASA must master before even considering a moon mission. And as happens throughout the series, Kraft puts complicated issues into plain English. Describing the process of spacecraft rendezvous, he says: “Come over to my house. You stand in the backyard, I stand in the front yard. You throw a tennis ball over the roof, I’ll try to hit it with a rock as it comes sailing over. That’s what we’re going to have to do.”

If I remember correctly the show was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings, and it was must-watch TV for me. There’s no word of it showing up on UK terrestrial TV this time round, but assuming that doesn’t change any time soon I’m just going to have to pay £9.99 for the HD version because it was a great, great story very well told.1

[Edited to add: Part of what made the show work so well is that it adopted a strategy of changing the focus of the story being told each week. One episode was about the experience of the astronauts’ wives and how they felt being in the spotlight while their husbands were on missions, and another dealt with the requirement that those astronauts whose missions might involve time on the lunar surface needing to learn enough geology to be useful field workers when they found themselves standing on the moon and required to determine where they could take the next rock sample. Another one was focussed on an individual astronaut, Alan Shepard, needing to find a way back into space in the face of his inner-ear disorder. Not entirely a different cast every episode, but very different angles on the story from episode to episode and a cast of folks who spent the next couple of decades being familiar faces in the age of Prestige TV.]

[Via Six Colors]

WhosePassword?

Turns out that coming up with strong passwords is less simple than mere humans can comprehend:

For too many people, moving the digits around in some variation of Patriots69Lover is their idea of a strong password. So you might expect something complicated like” “ji32k7au4a83” would be a great password. But according to the data breach repository Have I Been Pwned (HIBP), it shows up more often than one might expect. […]

Turns out there’s a good reason for that.1

[Via Pixel Envy]