Surface Duo (one more time)

Continuing my obsession with Microsoft’s Surface Duo, interesting to read the thoughts of someone who took the plunge after a sharp price reduction:

When turned on, the Duo greets you with two separate displays, and that is exactly what you are meant to see. Unlike Samsung’s Fold series that gives you an iPad-ish display when opened, the Duo is never mistaken for anything other than two screens. In fact, it is built into how the device functions. Open an app and it will only appear on one screen, inviting you to do something else with the other.

Trying it out led to this conclusion:

Frankly, I think the problem isn’t the Duo itself, but it is how I interact with my technology these days. You see, I’ve always loved writing in Moleskine notebooks, but I haven’t done that in a good long while because my notes are more convenient when stored in the cloud. And because of that, I’ve been accustomed to writing my notes on my phone or my tablet. I’ve been accustomed to using one screen. The Surface Duo, for as excellent a device that it is, flies in the face of years of muscle memory. Sure, given time, I might be able to break that and really make the Surface Duo a useful gadget- and a strong part of me wants to give it that chance- but even at $400, and especially with an older version of Android and slow updates and lingering bugs and newer versions on the horizon, I just don’t think I can give it that chance right now.

A shame that Microsoft didn’t put their new form factor out there at a price that would encourage users to give it a try. Perhaps the Surface Duo experiment was the right idea (for users who were prepared to revise their working habits, at least) but at the wrong price point.

Apple Sounds

If you’re a frequent visitor to the Apple ecosystem, the first minute or so of the introductory video for this week’s Apple’s "Unleashed" event is comfy and familiar, a tribute to the way the sound of Apple’s devices have shaped our experience of modern technology.

I wasn’t watching the event, because I’m unlikely to buy an Apple device pricier than my current iPad Mini 4 any time soon, but as someone who Switched to Apple rather than follow Microsoft further down the path through Windows 98/Windows ME1 it definitely worked on me.2

I’m glad M.G. Siegler’s passing mention of the intro’s music led me to seek it out.

[Via 500ish]


  1. Of course Microsoft would – quite legitimately – point out that they abandoned that path themselves in favour of Dave Cutler’s Windows NT/Windows 2000, so I’m blaming them for a mistake they corrected 20 or so years ago. Then I contemplate the frustrating experience of using Microsoft Teams on my work PC under Windows 10 and I realise how little they changed. 
  2. If I were a journalist writing a story I’d probably feel obliged to hunt down the views of folks from the Windows/Android/Linux side of the divide, which I’m guessing might differ quite a bit in these days when everything is so tribal. But I’m not a journalist, so I’m content to reflect how it worked on me and leave it at that. 

Flight

Watching videos of moths taking flight at 6,000 frames per second turned out to be exactly what I needed on a lazy Sunday morning. I never thought of moths as cuddly, but how else can you describe these?

Seeing how ungainly some of those take-offs looked, I couldn’t help but think of Douglas Adams on the subject of flying (from Life, the Universe and Everything): "The Guide says there is an art to flying", said Ford, "or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."

[Via MetaFilter]

Foundation

And so it begins:

Influential sf sequence by Isaac Asimov (whom see for fuller discussion), initially a trilogy beginning with Foundation (May 1942-October 1944 Astounding; fixup 1951; cut vt The 1,000 Year Plan 1955 dos), in which Psychohistory predicts the fall of a Galactic Empire and points the way to a newer, more stable organization of galactic society.

After the first two episodes, it looks to me as if the Apple TV+ adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy is very much what you’d expect from an adaptation of a very old piece of speculative fiction that started out being written for the pulps and ended up being anointed as one of the greatest science fiction series of all time. Sumptuous looking, with a decent cast but fatally weakened by the way the plot is almost certainly going to deprive us of almost all1 the characters we meet in the opening episodes by the time the story gets going. I assume they’re hoping to hook us all with the look of the show so that we’ll ignore the jumps from one era/cast to the next.

Show-runner David S Goyer has indicated that the writers’ room are up for spending seven seasons telling this story, but I fear that three seasons in the show will be cancelled when audiences notice that suddenly this new character The Mule2 is getting all that screen time and where’s that nice Lee Pace3 gone? I do hope that David S Goyer has a backup plan for the moment when he’s informed that Apple are giving him funding for season 3 but that’ll be his lot, so now instead of showing us the fall of The Mule in the forthcoming season he’s going to have to fast-forward through the remainder of the Foundation saga in one go. The fanboy reaction to dropping the ball on the Foundation saga will make the roasting he got for stepping into the director’s chair for the third Blade film and alienating Wesley Snipes seem like a picnic.

To be fair, the writers may yet surprise me. I’ll certainly keep watching just because of the enjoyment I got from the original trilogy4 when I read it back in the early 1970s. There’s not so much good speculative fiction on TV right now that I can afford to discard a show that looks that good this early. I reserve judgement on the show overall because we’re just two episodes in and the events of that second episode suggest that things might just be about to take a turn. Let’s see…


  1. Is Jared Harris going to pop up as a hologram occasionally throughout the show? Will that be enough to keep everyone happy in the absence of every other character we thought we were getting to know? 
  2. Already name-dropped in the first episode. 
  3. Is it possible that the whole Emperor Cleon-cloning plot device, which doesn’t appear in the original trilogy, is a master stroke that will allow the writers to have the middle brother in the trio of Emperors played by Lee Pace throughout the story? Is this where one day we’re destined to look back and declare David S Goyer a genius as he gave Lee Pace the career-defining role that’ll allow him to play the same character several times over but with different personalities depending upon the pressures he faces as the Empire falls and rises and falls relative to the power of the Foundation and the Second Foundation and Galaxia over the centuries. Are we looking, even now, at Lee Pace’s Don Draper or Tony Soprano? Wouldn’t that be a thing… 
  4. For the record, I’ve never read the later additions to the series tying it into Asimov’s Robot stories: I have a very bad feeling about how poor a fit that would have been, and I get the impression that I’m not alone in that. 

Uncle Clive, R.I.P.

The news that Sir Clive Sinclair has passed away makes me sad, like a few million others who got the chance to own a microcomputer of their own for a ridiculously low price in the 1980s.

Sad that a quick search of the text in that obituary doesn’t even find a single instance of the letters "QL." Such a missed opportunity, launched right at the point when the computer-buying public was starting to look askance at the Sinclair model of launching really cheap hardware that it turned out cut a few too many corners. No denying it, for a few years in the early 1980s Sinclair’s machines hit a sweet spot and the limitations were bearable.

At one point I had expanded my Sinclair QL’s RAM capacity to a whopping 640KB and was running a utility that let me run multiple copies of Quill and Abacus and a RAM Disk and jump between them at a keystroke1 and it was GLORIOUS, particularly since there wasn’t a cat’s chance in hell that I could afford an Apple Mac.

I could have afforded a BBC Micro Model B and I’m sure I’d have liked BBC Basic, but SuperBASIC suited me nicely. Also, Quill and Abacus were really, really good home office software so I could make a Sinclair QL work for me until, a few years later, I upgraded to an Atari 520STM with a gorgeously sharp monochrome monitor. Uncle Clive started me down that road, and I suspect that an unusually high proportion of my contemporaries built a life-long interest in IT on the foundations the ZX-80, ZX-81 and ZX Spectrum provided.

Sinclair never got the second act that Steve Jobs did or the level of fame, but a lot of people like me in the UK owe him a huge debt for giving us a chance to get early hands-on experience with technology that dominated the 21st century.


  1. I forget which software that was. This is what I get for mentioning stuff I was using in the mid-late 1980s and haven’t thought about in almost forty years. Man, I’m getting old… 
, 16 September 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

Tough enough?

Watching a feature film on commercial TV with ads earlier this evening – not something I do all that often these days – I was interested to see Samsung’s latest ad campaign referring to their new phones as : "Our toughest foldables yet."

Not the highest bar they’re setting themselves there, I thought. Then I visited their web site and found this statement:

Designed to shatter expectations
Scratches and damage are no match for this phone. The exterior front cover and back cover on Galaxy Z Flip3 5G are made of the toughest Gorilla Glass yet on Galaxy Z: Corning® Gorilla® Glass Victus™.

So, they’re hoping that tackling their earlier foldables’ bad reputation by pretending that last time wasn’t a fiasco and emphasising the "toughness" of the glass this time round as if this was just a routine marginal upgrade from one generation on materials to the next 1 will get this generation of product over the hump.2

Time will tell how that works out for them. Not sure I like their chances.


  1. Just like a new generation of phones coming with a slightly higher screen resolution or a moderately better camera or a slightly faster processor compared to the last one. Is incremental change really going to do the trick given how far short the last generation fell, or are Samsung just hoping that most phone buyers didn’t pay attention to the technical press in relation to the epic embarrassment they delivered last time round. 
  2. Wasn’t the problem last time round less how “tough” the glass was and more that the bits of the design that needed to be flexible turned out to need to be incapable of coping with that need without seriously degrading their performance as glass to display an image on? Will it all turn out that it depends on what you mean by “tougher”
, 26 August 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

‘Come From Away’ coming to Apple TV+

‘Come From Away’ Film Adaptation Gets Apple TV+ Premiere Date:

The musical tells the true story of 7,000 people stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland after all flights into the US are grounded on September 11, 2001. As the people of Newfoundland graciously welcome the “come from aways” into their community in the aftermath, the passengers and locals alike “process what’s happened while finding love, laughter, and new hope in the unlikely and lasting bonds that they forge.”

This musical – possibly the most thoroughly Canadian bit of content I’ve heard of in years – has been on my to-see list for quite a while, so given the lack of opportunities for catching it live in a theatre lately this is a nice bonus. I knew there was some reason1 I kept paying2 that Apple TV+ subscription.

[Via r/tvPlus]


  1. Apart from Ted Lasso, and the prospect of more seasons of For All Mankind, and the imminent adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation series, and whatever chance there is that Mythic Quest might return for another season despite word that there is “no plan yet” for that at the moment. 
  2. Well, given the way Apple have extended free months of Apple TV+ at the drop of a hat I don’t get to pay for it again until next January, but I’m perfectly willing to pay for Apple TV+ when the time comes. (I don’t see myself paying for an Apple One package any time soon.) 
, 10 August 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .