Viticci On Twitter Apps And Twitter Cards

10 December 2014


Twitter Cards aren’t available to third-party clients over the API, which has forced Tweetbot and Twitterrific to come up with their own custom integrations to display tweet previews for web content. The result is that the timeline shown in these two clients will look different and out of place after you get used to the richness of previews in the Twitter app.

This isn’t completely true. Twitter Cards are implemented through metadata tags in the website source. All the information for cards are described by this information. The Twitter app crawls the linked URL to strip out this info and displays it as a ‘card’.

Whilst the Twitter API won’t expose the formatted data inline, there’s nothing stopping third-parties from crawling URLs themselves and accessing the same information. With a little bit of work, Tweetbot could mirror the ‘cards’ functionality 1:1. Twitter might balk at it but I haven’t seen anyone toe the line yet to find out. I don’t think there is a rule (yet) that prevents it.

The 100

1 December 2014

I was born in space. I’ve never felt the sun on my face, or breathed real air, or floated in the water. None of us have. For three generations, the Ark has kept what’s left of the human race alive. But now, our home is dying and we are the last hope of mankind. One hundred prisoners sent on a desperate mission to the ground. Each of us is here because we broke the law — on the ground there is no law. All we have to do is survive. And we will be tested: by the Earth, by the secrets it hides and, most of all, by each other.

I rarely comment or recommend TV shows, mainly because I’m a very uncool geek … outside of consumer electronics and PC gaming1. I do not appreciate things that most TV fanatics consider core prerequisites of fandom. I don’t care for Star Trek, Star Wars, Lost, Mad Men, Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

However, I have come to love The 100, pronounced ‘The Hundred’, which airs on the CW network in the US. Being a Brit, I don’t know what else this network does but it apparently has a reputation of airing mediocre teen dramas that care more about the exterior appearances of its cast than its storylines. I can’t comment aside from saying The 100 is not that.

I stumbled on The 100 due to a recommendation from my mum2, as the first series has been syndicated by E4, who will watch anything sci-fi. I was passively watching the TV with her when she showed me an episode off the DVR. I shrugged it off at first as most kids do when their parents tell them something is worth checking out.

I can’t remember the details but one day I was bored so I somehow circled back onto this suggestion, fully expecting it to not satiate my boredom one iota, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was watching the fifth episode (not beginning with episode 1 shows how little my faith was in my mother’s recommendation) and — in retrospect — I’m glad I did. The middle of the series is where I think the show gets good.

The first episode is a pilot shot well in advance of the rest of the series, so it lacks any real depth. I can summarise the action for you in a sentence. One of the kids gets hit by a spear, a pretty girl gets bit by a giant eel, two boys have a hormonal standoff and another boy (one of the lead characters, Bellamy) starts bullying people around.

As an opener, it’s very uninviting. The only interesting bit is the small glimpse at the friction between members of the Ark, which foreshadows the power struggles that come later in the series. On reflection, it’s nowhere near as bad as my memories but that’s because I am now biased by my investment in the series. I can easily see how new viewers will abandon the show because of the mediocre opening episode.

That’s why I think I’m lucky that I — out of sheer laziness — started in the middle. It turns out Episode 5 is where most people believe the show actually gets good, although I think Episode 4 is sublime.

It’s almost inconceivable that this show goes from a cliche snake bite rescue to a public hanging in four episodes. Spoiler alert: someone gets killed at knifepoint and someone gets brutally bound and hung as a public display of ‘righteousness’. The contrast in character development, intensity and emotional attachment is crazy.

That’s enough digression. Describing The 100 is difficult. At it’s core, it’s a show about making hard choices where no option is all good. This show is about consequences and repercussions. The constraints of low oxygen, limited food and a myriad of unknown threats are merely plot devices that exacerbate the decision making opportunities. All the Grounders, Reapers and Mountain Men offer exciting action sequences but the meat of what makes me come back is the underlying cause and effect.

When people fight, they remain scarred and injured. When they get shot in the spine, the bullet paralyses them in one leg. When a good guy kills people, he goes mentally insane.

This isn’t to say I don’t like the setting. The futuristic nature (97 years in the future, supposedly) enables some pretty visuals and interesting situations. For the first season, it also creates some interesting juxtapositions between the situation on the ground (where technology is very much lacking) and the developed Ark. The Ark is a life of luxury when compared to the carnal survival culture of the people on Earth, but both parties are suffering in different ways.

It’s also worth noting that The 100 is fast-paced. Season 1 has 13 episodes and Season 2 will have 16. Stuff happens fast. Story arcs that I expected to last a series or more were resolved in a matter of episodes. There’s a middle ground between something being overplayed and something being rushed that The 100 executes so perfectly. The show changes drastically with Season 2’s new environments and much larger ecosystem, keeping it fresh. I love it.

The portrayal of romance is too often the weak link for such TV. Once again, The 100 delivers by not falling into the common trap of letting love triangles and jealousy engulf the entire plot. It needs to be included to be realistic: sexual love is part of being a teenager. The show uses the relationships and love interests to cause more conflicts and raise interesting moral questions. For example, Finn courts Clarke from the moment he lands … despite having a long-term girlfriend in Raven on the Ark. However, given the situation of uncertainty and doubts about ever seeing anyone from the Ark again, did Finn really cross a line? Naturally, Raven then crashes to Earth the very next episode to cause some awkward encounters.

In the first season, the story takes place in very few locations: the Ark, the camp, the forest. With Season 2, the world has grown to include many more areas as the characters are split up into several contingents, following the events of the finale. It becomes more complicated as a result, although this should only be a transitory cost.

Crucially, though, the show retains the core elements that define The 100. You soon find out how the Reapers, Grounders and Mountain Men are not so disparate and actually form an interconnected economy. They have scaled up the show from Season 1’s ‘base defence’ vibe elegantly indeed. The additional budget for larger sets and better visual effects are pumping out better stories each week in this new season.

1 Even saying that I’m a ‘PC gamer’ is a stretch. I play a lot of League of Legends and I used to play a lot of Starcraft. That’s my complete gaming portfolio. I’m very fanatical about very few things, across my entire life really.

2 Remember the part about me being an uncool geek?

Writing Aid App Preview Video

13 November 2014

I was lazing about at 1 AM1 so I finally got around to making an app preview video for Writing Aid. Following Apple recommendations, the video is very plain and basic. I demo the tentpole features of the app and end by showing the widget. The background music is from Onj Louis — honestly I picked it primarily because I didn’t want to pay to license something. It’s a decent, albeit generic, backing track.

I felt like uploading the video to YouTube was a smart idea. Obviously, it will be shown in the App Store when version 1.1.4 gets approved.

1 Advice: I’m not a good role model to follow. I should have made this video months ago during daylight hours.

Twitter's New Mission Statement

12 November 2014

Wall Street Journal:

Noto also read out Twitter’s new mission statement, which he admitted was a mouthful: “Reach the largest daily audience in the world by connecting everyone to their world via our information sharing and distribution platform products and be one of the top revenue generating Internet companies in the world.”

“I struggle to read it every time,” Noto said.

Ignoring the weird PR crap and the alarming focus on revenue maximisation, the CTO himself ‘struggles to read it every time’. Isn’t that a good enough sign you should pick something else?

Landscape Lock Screen Concept By Jake Marsh

31 October 2014

Jake Marsh:

The iOS lock screen may appear simple and almost featureless at first glance, but it actually serves quite a few different functions, and adding landscape support for all of them is certainly a non-trivial task. Again, it strikes me this is likely the reason for not supporting this yet, given the almost certainly enormous complexity of this part of iOS’s codebase.

There is a lot of effort involved, yes, but it’s disappointing that Apple didn’t make the effort with the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a bit hypocritical for Apple to expect third-party developers to go the extra mile and optimise app layouts, when it can’t dedicate the time to do it fully as the platform vendor.

The A8X In The iPad Air 2

22 October 2014

Daring Fireball:

But Geekbench only measures CPU performance — year-over-year, the iPad Air 2 is even more impressive in terms of GPU performance. Apple claims, “The A8X chip has an astonishing 2.5 times the graphics performance of the A7 chip,” and from what I’ve seen, that’s true.

The iPad is no longer following in the wake of the iPhone, performance- and specs-wise. It’s forging ahead. With 2 GB of RAM, it’s a year ahead of the iPhone (we hope) in that department. Performance-wise it’s fast enough to replace a MacBook Air for many, many people. The demos that Apple chose for last week’s event — the Pixelmator image editor and Replay real-time video editor — emphasize that. Those are performance-heavy tasks, and the iPad Air 2 handled them with aplomb.

The gap between the iPad’s hardware capabilities and iOS’ software capabilities grows further. Apple isn’t known for overspeccing their devices. There’s something we aren’t seeing yet, for sure.

Apple's October Event

16 October 2014

I think the Mac changes are good. Great, even. The Retina iMac is a technical feat of engineering and well priced, at that. You need to pay more than $2499, but I don’t think it is unreasonably costly considering the quality of display it includes. Whether the GPU can hold up to the task is another matter.1

However, on the iPad side, I don’t think Apple is deserved of any praise. The iPad mini lineup is a literal disgrace. On the low end, Apple is still selling the A5 Mini. The iPad mini 3 doesn’t even deserve a numerical designation. It’s exactly the same product with Touch ID. Not updating the internals at all is insane to me. One of the most compelling aspects of the 2013 Mini was the fact it was identical to the Air in performance, just smaller. That nicety is gone completely with this generation. Even Apple didn’t care for the thing, giving the new Mini only a fleeting mention on stage.

With the Air 2, it’s obviously difficult to make products drastically better every year. The Air 2 is an incremental improvement when I feel like it needed something spectacular. Don’t ask me what that amazing thing is, because I don’t know. The delta between the iPad 4 and the iPad Air 2 is really not that large, given the timeframe. In January, I said that “iPad hardware is outstripping the capabilities of the OS it runs”. With the A8X, that disparity has widened still. I continue to believe Apple will unveil a new split-screen environment for iPad multitasking soon and it is a real shame that it wasn’t ready for today’s event.

And yeah … 16 GB is a joke.

1 Obviously, the GPU can power it but is it noisy? Do the fans go ballistic if you try and do basic tasks, churning through 14 million pixels?

eBay Now Ships Goods Internationally, Sellers Only Pay Domestic Postage Fees

16 October 2014


The Global Shipping Programme is an easy way for business and private sellers to reach millions more buyers with minimal changes to your current processes. This new programme is designed for sellers who don’t currently offer international postage on listings.

The Global Shipping Programme works by automatically showing international postage costs on your eligible listings to prospective buyers in other countries at no additional cost to you. Your items will be available first to buyers from selected EU countries and later in 2014 to buyers in selected non-EU countries.

I can’t comment on whether or not this is bottom-line profitable for eBay, but I do know that this is spectacularly executed. I haven’t written something on this blog for a week1, but this cold-call email compelled me to write.

Obviously, eBay drives more bids, more sellers and more money to flow through its service by encouraging international postage, but that’s not what I want to talk about. It’s the execution that is genius.

As long as a seller shipped domestically before, almost nothing changes in the workflow to participate in this program. eBay takes on the responsibility of not only shipping the items, but also calculating the various regional prices. eBay manages customer information and sends the seller a proxy domestic address, just like a normal domestic auction. The seller posts the package to eBay and eBay ships it to its final international destination.

This means the seller only pays domestic shipping charges to eBay. eBay recoups its expenditure through the additional P&P costs that the buyer is already used to seeing.

In fact, the process is so transparent that eBay can (and is) automatically enrolling sellers into the scheme without being obnoxious. eBay isn’t asking the seller to take on any additional responsibility, so there’s no penalty for the seller to be part of the scheme.

The efficient reallocation of resources here, where eBay is pooling individuals to take advantage of its economies of scale in distribution, is just sublime. This is what you call an elegant product change.

1 I’m sure that will change later today.

Apple Watch To Feature On Cover Of Vogue China

10 October 2014

The Business of Fashion:

Apple organised a high-profile dinner for 250 fashion insiders, co-hosted by Azzedine Alaïa, Marc Newson and Jonathan Ive. But the guest of honour was the Apple Watch, several versions of which were displayed in a case right in the middle of the dinner venue, a space normally used as Mr Alaïa’s showroom. On their way out, guests were given exclusive images of the product, shot by Davis Sims and styled by Karl Templer, the very duo behind the Apple Watch’s fashion editorial debut on the wrist of Chinese supermodel Liu Wen in Vogue China.

The photography is nice, but notice how every picture shows the Apple Watch from a top-down perspective. At no point do the shots show the side of the device, where the thickness is noticeable. It concerns me a little that the photographers made a seemingly-conscious effort to conceal the depth of the Watch. On the flip side, the post also includes an interview with Vogue China’s editor and she seems to love how it looks …

Apple To Announce New iPads And Macs On October 16th

4 October 2014


Apple has a few more new products to unveil before the year is out, and it plans to show them off in a couple weeks. Sources tell Code/red the company will hold its next special event on Thursday, Oct. 16 — not the 21st. Headlining the gathering: The latest updates to its iPad line, along with those new iMacs that 9to5Mac told us about earlier this week. Also: OS X Yosemite. Given the breadth and spectacle of Apple’s September event, this one will be a more laid-back affair held at the company’s Town Hall Auditorium in Cupertino, without any mysterious white structures and awkward one-song concerts. Apple declined comment.

Unlike the September event, which had a ‘theme’ linking the announcements together, this October event is more like a hodge-podge of miscellany. Not that is a bad thing, but there’s nothing standout that I am avidly waiting to see announced due this month.

The new iPads seem lacklustre in terms of hardware — Touch ID, anti-reflective screen coating, A8. I’m hoping Apple will demo1 its split-screen multitasking implementation for iPad, although I fear they may save that for next year to show off alongside the 12.9 inch iPad.

1 “Demo” … not necessarily release immediately. 

Marc Newson Working On Specific Part-Time Project For Apple

2 October 2014


Amy Frearson: You’ve taken on quite a major role with Apple, do you think you’ll still have time to work on these kinds of project as well?
Marc Newson: Yes absolutely, because my role at Apple doesn’t necessitate all of my time and that was for very specific reasons, so absolutely, my company still exists and I remain based in the UK.
Amy Frearson: And can you tell me what you’re working on at Apple?
Marc Newson: Not really! Sorry!
Mark van Iterson: They’ll fire him immediately if he does.
Marc Newson: And I’ve only just started!
Amy Frearson: Can you tell me if you were involved in the watch design?
Marc Newson: Apparently I can’t.
PR Lady: Sorry we can’t answer that, sorry.

Let me translate. “Apparently, I can’t” means yes, Newson did have input on Apple Watch. In regard to his current ‘special project’, who knows? Maybe it’s just some structure for Apple Campus 2 … maybe it’s for another fashion iProduct1 in the pipeline.

1 The colloquial iProduct (to mean any new Apple hardware) doesn’t really work anymore, now that Apple is moving away from the ‘i’ prefix.

iOS 8.0.1 Disables Cellular Connectivity And Touch ID For iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus

24 September 2014


Many users are reporting that cellular functions and Touch ID are no longer working post update, so we would recommend holding off until further notice. Many who have updated their iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPhone 5s are reporting no problems, so it appears this problem is likely confined to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

This obviously shouldn’t have happened. I’m not sure how this got through QA, but I don’t really care. What matters is if a bug of this ilk recurs again, in the future. Then you can say Apple has structural problems as an organisation. Isolated incidents are not signs of poor management — they are (in most cases) genuine mistakes.

Apple Airs 'Huge' And 'Camera' iPhone Ads

23 September 2014


Apple has started airing two new iPhone 6 ads starring the duo of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. Tim Cook unveiled two ads starring the pair during the iPhone 6 announcement earlier this month with ads that focused on the Health application and size of the phone.

The new ads, dubbed “Huge” and “Camera” started hitting airwaves tonight and focus once again on the size of the display and the upgraded cameras with enhanced image stabilization, slow-motion and time-lapse capabilities.

The idea of these ads is clever, but I don’t think they have been executed very well. Camera is decent, but Huge is cringe-worthy. Timberlake’s repetition of “It’s huge!” comes across as an insult. On top of that, these ads don’t scale well geographically. The ad requires you to recognise who is speaking.1 You couldn’t play the same ad in the UK, for instance. Nobody knows who Jimmy Fallon is over here.

1 Which made the prolonged silence when Cook asked ‘Do you know who they are?’ at the iPhone event even more awkward.

Apple Pulls HealthKit Apps Due To iOS 8 Bug

18 September 2014

Apple, via Tim Bradshaw:

“We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today. We’re working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month.”

A lot of iOS features have been pushed back from the main 8.0 launch, more than usual. I’m not sure if this signifies anything untoward, but it’s definitely strange. Apple has prepped HealthKit ads for the iPhone 6 launch … they certainly weren’t expecting last-minute difficulties.

Matthew Panzarino Takes The iPhone 6 To Disneyland

17 September 2014


Both cameras shot well in good light, with great performance in super bright sun. Especially welcome were their ability to capture even bright reds like Mrs. Incredible’s costume (shot with iPhone 6).

Solid, bright reds are notoriously difficult for image sensors to capture but both iPhones handled them well.

Apple has made significant improvements to its ISP (Image Signal Processor) which have resulted in apparent gains in sharpness, color rendition and low-light performance. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used, and approach the best point-and-shoot cameras I’ve ever shot.

I was really impressed by this picture. The red is vibrant and deep and the outlines are super-crisp. It also helps the picture is relatable. It’s not framed or staged. Panzarino is at Disneyland, taking photos of his daughter. I can connect with it much better than the sample images posted in other reviews.

Apple Watch Battery Life 'About A Day'

11 September 2014


Sources tell me that Apple isn’t yet happy with the watch’s battery life, which isn’t going to break any industry standards. “It’s about a day right now,” said one, adding that Apple is working on various modifications ahead of the device’s 2015 launch to improve it. Reached for comment, Apple spokeswoman Nat Kerris declined to provide an estimate on expected battery life, but said the company expects users will charge their Apple Watches once daily. “There’s a lot of new technology packed into Apple Watch and we think people will love using it throughout the day,” Kerris said. “We anticipate that people will charge nightly which is why we designed an innovative charging solution that combines our MagSafe technology and inductive charging.”

It goes without saying that higher battery life is always better. However, in most instances, one day battery life is all you need. Use through the day … charge at night. Apple clearly scrapped its sleep tracking features for this version because otherwise there would be no good time to charge it. You don’t want to unstrap something at midday just to ensure it can track your sleep patterns in the evening. There’s a natural cycle of how human beings live and the Watch mirrors that. I think 24 hours of longevity is perfectly acceptable.

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