Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

iPhone 4S Camera :: 1981 MESA/Boogie Mark IIB

It struck me while I was playing today how awesome the Mark II looks, sitting on top of a 1×12 EV loaded extension cab and pumping out just the best tone. This thing really delivers. Anyway, as I’ve had the 4S for a couple of weeks now I decided to have a go at taking some more decent pictures of the Boogie. Bottom line: I’m really starting to enjoy the camera on this phone.

The parallels between MESA/Boogie and Apple are pretty clear to me – the beautiful hardware, the build quality and unparalleled functionality. While I’m certain I won’t be using the 4S in 30 years time, at this moment in time is seems like a nice pairing of camera and subject.

More pictures below


Reading List :: Thursday 20th October 2011

Well it looks like Google can’t win. Yesterday’s (still ridiculously named) Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich announcement brought with it the revelation that the folks in Mountain View were finally ready to shed the By Engineers, For Engineers vibe their mobile OS has been bugged / credited with (depending on your geek-factor). Yes, Ice Cream Sandwich is full of design changes and the general consensus is that it brings the OS’ level of polish up a great many levels, an area it’s never been able to draw parity with iOS or WP7 in no matter what speeds and feeds get crammed into handsets.

Of particular note was the switch of system font from Droid Sans to Roboto. Personally I think it’s okay, but Typographica and ‘The Understatement‘ seemed pretty pissed this morning, with the former calling it a ‘four headed Frankenfont’ and the latter feigning impartiality in a piece headlined ‘Roboto vs. Helvetica’.

Anyway, I like Roboto, or at least am indifferent to it. The idiot anti-Apple / anti-Android camps are basically using this one as a battleground: Gruber makes a number of good points to counter some guy’s stupid anti-Apple beef piece, and on the other side of the coin ‘The Understatement’ linked above is an equally stupid and thinly veiled, pro-Apple prime slice, probably exactly the sort of thing that the Android guy was railing against in the first place.

Dream Theater continue to bug the hell out of me. I cannot stand about 90% of their music, but there are so many things I adore about John Petrucci. The best way I’ve found to enjoy his playing is through the many promo videos he does for my favourite company in the universe and the builders of the greatest amplifiers on the planet ever, Mesa/Boogie. This morning, Mesa blogged a couple of sweet videos of John’s touring rig, one from his tech and the other from the man himself. I’ve gotta get myself a Mark V, man. Seriously.

Adobe have cleared up a few mysteries behind that awesome video of the ‘Deblur’ Photoshop preview from the MAX Sneak Peek a couple of weeks ago in a post to the Photoshop blog. If you’ve watched the video then you can pretty much just skim through, the meat in the sandwich is the before/after JPEGs. It’s amazing. Like fantasy, TV magic. Very exciting.

Finally, I got way too distracted by the Sony Design History page. One of my (very) early tech favourites were Sony’s catalogs, which I basically read from cover to cover ever year until I was about 10. Looking back at the company’s design history is very nostalgic for me on that level, but also illustrates just how many classic products Sony has built over the last 60 years, and how few of the real revolutionary ones came in the last 15.

Reading List :: Wednesday 19th October 2011

I’m in the middle of a big (final, major) software project at the moment which has prevented me from posting any longer bits to the site in a few weeks. This project isn’t going anywhere – as in, I’m definitely going to be working on it for the next few months…it’s progressing, but it’s also big – so in order to keep the site ticking over I’m going to start a semi-regular ‘Reading List’. If there’s anything insanely great that pops up in my morning reading session – guitars, code, consumer electronics, whatever – it’ll get featured on the list. Simple!

This morning has been pretty much dominated by coverage of the joint Google/Samsung press conference which, having been held in Hong Kong, took place at strange o’clock in Europe and the US. Oh, and Motorola (Google?!?) also had an event and announced the coolest Android phone in the world for all of about, oh, half an hour. Rather than any of the ‘news’, which in Android-land is ridiculously ephemeral and kind of difficult to get excited about most of the time, the most interesting article I found was Joshua Topolsky’s interview with Matias Duarte, the Danger/webOS UI designer who has been tasked with classing up Android and who’s first wide release of the OS (I’m not counting Honeycomb) will be the stupidly named but intriguing Ice Cream Sandwich. I full on dig this guy’s attention to detail, and his shots at the faux-wood/leather/etc are so, so justified – even Gruber said so. Google should give him carte blanche; he’s totally got what they’ve been missing.

I’ll be downloading the Android 4.0 SDK for a play at some stage – I’m an iOS developer, but like so many I learned the ropes on Java…so the only thing stopping me from writing for Android is the godawful SDK. And Eclipse. Hopefully this one will bring parity with Xcode, but I’m not holding my breath.

This is actually from yesterday, but is very creative, very cool and very creepy indeed. Nothing we didn’t know already (what, Facebook has loads of my data? Whoa!), but man, what a visceral way to present it. Just remember to delete it from your applications after use.

Lastly, Forbes’ profile of Dropbox. I love Dropbox, but interesting that Jobs told them he’d crush them with iCloud – I’ve already got it synching my MacBook Pro and iMac, and will add my iPhone 4S when it arrives later. iCloud has already obviated two of my regular cross-machine sync solutions, might Dropbox be next?

Privacy & Security Should Be Optional

Having recently upgraded to Mac OS X Lion, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the past couple of weeks reinstalling software on and as-needed basis. One package I’ve been reluctant to reload is Adobe’s Flash player, the de facto media delivery mechanism for the desktop web and a program which knows how to eat CPU and burn up your machine like no other.

While I’ve railed against Flash for its processor greed and propensity for cooking chips in the past (mainly with workarounds and avoidance techniques), I’ve grown so used to these shortcomings and working around them that they are no longer my primary concern when loading my machine with Adobe’s player.

With the release of version 10.3 back in May 2011, Flash gained for the first time a pane in the Mac OS’ System Preferences application. It seems almost incredible that it wasn’t until earlier this year that a piece of software present on 99% of all internet connected computers, 8.1% of which are Macs, didn’t have an OS-conventional approach to settings alteration. Finally setting Flash preferences falls in line with convention. But the addition of the Flash Player preference pane has actually drawn my attention to what I view as an industry-wide problem with ensuring user privacy and security.

You see, with 2.1 billion people connected to the web and more than 1 in 3 using Facebook, privacy and security have become quite the hot topic of late. More people are sharing more information and are, rightly, more concerned about where it’s going and what it’s being used for; as the network becomes the computer (many buy a laptop ‘just to get on Facebook’ and have little interest in how they get there), makers of local and remote software platforms need to have a clear focus on keeping that data safe.

My concern was raised while browsing through the new preference pane that installs with Flash, and the default settings chosen by Adobe. There are four key areas where the user is given the option to dictate the behaviour of the Flash player: offline storage, camera, media playback and updating. Automatic updates for a software platform with as dubious a security history as Flash is an absolutely welcome and necessarily enabled by default. Similarly, the player will request access to the camera and microphone on a case-by-case basis, a good choice given the proliferation of webcam-equipped laptops.

Offline storage and peer-assisted networking, however, are enabled by default. Given the zeal with which Flash consumes my CPU cycles, I’m not sure I would want it to have free reign over my network connection, and given its chequered security record I’m not convinced that allowing it offline storage by default is such a bright idea either.

The main problem I have with these default settings, though, is that they will probably never be changed, which is why companies like Adobe need to take steps further than just chucking in a preference pane with their app – my mother hasn’t ever and likely will never open System Preferences, and I’m sure she’s not alone. There are necessary changes which need to be made by any company responsible for data handling, even if they are merely providing the conduit (as Adobe does with Flash player).

Firstly, the default security and privacy setting must be ‘lockdown’. Flash shouldn’t be assuming control of a user’s bandwidth or storing files on their machine by default any more than it should be automatically serving up a webcam feed without prompting. The effect of a default feature lockout is that user is introduced to the preference pane and forced to actively make decisions about their privacy and security rather than relying on the stock settings. They needn’t feel bothered – after all, they only have to set it up once and forget about it – but they can now browse with confidence in the knowledge that their information is protected to their very own specifications, and just like everybody has different data, everybody values that data differently.

Microsoft actually has tried something akin this approach twice in the past, first with the variable ‘privacy level’ control in the Internet Options control panel, and more recently with the UAC layer introduced with Windows Vista. Between these two approaches, the company has actually got all of the right ideas. The user needs to be jolted into taking a more active role in their security through dialogs such as UAC, and the variable security level controls provide a useful abstract for casual users with the option for fine control for those who require it. Unfortunately, these concepts have both failed in their execution. UAC is widely derided and often disabled because of its irritating frequency, and the user security variables, like most good ideas from Microsoft, are buried under layers of dialogs and menus, effectively rendering them invisible to the casual user.

By switching the defaults to ‘off’ and gently, but firmly, prompting the user to engage with their online security and privacy, responsible companies can educate their (massive) user base and improve the quality of their experience by placing the decision making process in the hands of the user. While the industry aspires to give an experience which ‘just works’, this is one area where the user should definitely be involved – these are choices which people make every day when they shield their PIN at the ATM, don’t give out their phone number to strangers and ask to see ID from the guy at the door claiming he’s from the gas company. When the data involved is personal, it should be the person, not Adobe or Apple or Google or Microsoft, making the call on how it is protected.





Solving the MBProgressHud _WebTryThreadLock Error

MBProgressHud is a really nice bit of plug in code to add fancy status and loading notifications to your iOS app quickly and easily. It looks great! Unfortunately, there’s an irritating error which cost me some time this morning, and hopefully I can save anyone else in the same position some trouble.

The error:

bool _WebTryThreadLock(bool), 0x7b9b5500: Tried to obtain the web lock from a thread other than the main thread or the web thread. This may be a result of calling to UIKit from a secondary thread. Crashing now...

This appears when a method which needs to update a UI component is called directly by the MBProgressHUD object.

The most basic usage of MBProgressHUD is thus:

HUD = [[MBProgressHUD alloc] initWithView:self.view];
[self.view addSubview:HUD];
HUD.delegate = self;
[HUD showWhileExecuting:@selector(fetchNewData) onTarget:self withObject:nil animated:YES];

In which ‘fetchNewData’ is the method which is executed while the progress HUD is on display.

Using this technique, fetchNewData will be called on a secondary thread, which causes the crash error we’ve already experienced. UIKit, which handles all the user interface business, should only be running on the main thread, so when the secondary thread makes a move on a particular UI element, its going to throw the ‘web lock from a thread…’ error. (It should be noticed that you can update some UI components using the standard MBProgressHUD setup detailed above, but in most cases you’ll get the error.)

In the case of this example, ‘fetchNewData’ updates part of the UI, so it needs to be called on the main thread. The quick and dirty workaround I used to force it to execute where I wanted it to was to create an intermediary method which can be called by MBProgressHUD as normal but in turn calls ‘fetchNewData’ specifically on the main thread.

You could, for example, call this method ‘performFetchOnMainThread’:

-(void) performFetchOnMainThread    {
[self performSelectorOnMainThread:@selector(fetchNewData) withObject:nil waitUntilDone:YES];

Instead of directly calling ‘fetchNewData’ from MBProgressHUD, use it to execute ‘performFetchOnMainThread’, which uses the ‘performSelectorOnMainThread’ method to force ‘fetchNewData’ to be executed on the main thread.

This isn’t the most efficient or beautiful way to accomplish this, but it works, so if you’re getting a ‘web lock from a thread…’ error and you need to make sure your code is executed on the main thread, you can use this technique to get the job done quickly.

PC Keyboards in Mac OS X Lion

One of the benefits of the recent upgrade I made to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is how consistently simple using a PC keyboard now is. The preference pane for switching the modifier keys around (using alt in place of CMD, Windows key in place of option etc…) was available in Snow Leopard and earlier versions, but compatibility with the range of PC keyboards I’ve tried with my various Macs has long been a bit patchy – even though the changes would save in System Preferences, the keys would still use the default mapping.

If you’re used to CMD being either side of the space bar, it can get pretty annoying when it isn’t there.

In earlier versions of OS X, I’ve used DoubleCommand when there’s been trouble remapping keys, however I’m pleased to report that Lion seems to have addressed some of the earlier issues with the modifier preference pane being ineffective.

I’ve tested the modifiers with a range of keyboards (including ones I’ve experienced issues with in the past) and they all seem to be altering the maps without issue.

To alter the key map:

1. Open System Preferences and select the ‘Keyboard’ preference pane

2. Click the ‘Modifier Keys’ button and switch the mapping. When you’re done, click ‘OK’ and close the preference pane.

Colorshare – Available in the App Store

Hot off the presses and approved by Apple mere moments ago, colorshare will become available in regional iPhone App Stores the world over over the next 48 hours or so.

Colorshare is a simple utility which allows you to quickly design a palette of colours on your iPhone or iPod Touch and with the tap of a button share it with the web using the unique palette ID number, which you can punch right into the homepage.

Once you’ve entered the ID of the palette you want to work with, it will appear on screen alone with a full breakdown of each colour in RGB, hexadecimal and CMYK.

Colorshare is completely free, and you can grab it from the App Store by following this link.

WikiKnowItAll – In the App Store

Brand new to the iOS App Store, WikiKnowItAll lets puts your own personal wiseacre right in your pocket. We all know someone who knows something about everything, and with Wikipedia behind them your WikiKnowItAll will never run out of interesting factoids – or enthusiasm for letting you know. The app is available in the iOS App Store today.




iPhone App Preview – colorshare

Coming soon to the web and the iPhone, a very quick and very easy way to prototype color schemes and share them online. ‘colorshare’ is currently in testing, but it should soon be available on the iOS App Store as a free download.

Meanwhile, the future home of the application on the web is online already, with features (beyond a placeholder) coming soon.

Ghosts at New Apple HQ?

Apple’s renderings of their proposed new headquarters have surfaced online at the City of Cupertino website in the form of a high-res PDF, yielding more details of the beautiful building itself as well as the surprising revelation that the grounds will apparently be patrolled by ghosts (have you ever seen a head that see-through?)

In all seriousness, while the confusing mix of transparent and solid bodied employees in the renderings is probably just an oversight on the part of a designer, the construction itself looks incredible. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it up-close since Steve presented it to the city council a couple of months ago and it looks every bit as good as expected. There are many breathtaking skyscrapers across the globe but I can’t recall a sprawl this spectacular. Is there any chance this place won’t become iconic?