Walking and Our Minds

Over at CNN Money, Matt McFarland looks into the the benefits of taking walks and why so many top execs take them:

Marc Berman, a University of Chicago psychology professor, has found that walking in nature can improve what’s called directed attention, when we force ourselves to focus on a task. With the other type of attention, involuntary attention, our interest is naturally captured and held, such as by a sunset.

“You don’t hear people say ‘Wow I’m so exhausted looking at that beautiful waterfall,'” Berman told CNNMoney.

When we’re in nature, our directed attention isn’t lost on distractions. You don’t waste brainpower focusing on the conference room you’re in, your chirping cell phone, or making sure a car won’t hit you. We only have so much attention to use, so saving every bit is an advantage.

I take walks all the time. I suppose the habit began during the 10 years I lived in Manhattan. When you live in New York you do a lot of walking. I walked everywhere and for different reasons. Sometimes I walked to clear my head, sometimes to take pictures, and sometimes just because the weather was nice.

I recommend everybody pick up this habit. There are no downsides, just don’t fall down a hole or get hit by a car.





Trump and Russian Banks, Sitting In a DNS Tree…

Over at Slate, Franklin Foer reports on a weird log of communications between Donald Trump’s servers and a bank in Russia:

In late July, one of these scientists—who asked to be referred to as Tea Leaves, a pseudonym that would protect his relationship with the networks and banks that employ him to sift their data—found what looked like malware emanating from Russia. The destination domain had Trump in its name, which of course attracted Tea Leaves’ attention. But his discovery of the data was pure happenstance—a surprising needle in a large haystack of DNS lookups on his screen. “I have an outlier here that connects to Russia in a strange way,” he wrote in his notes. He couldn’t quite figure it out at first. But what he saw was a bank in Moscow that kept irregularly pinging a server registered to the Trump Organization on Fifth Avenue.


The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn’t the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.


Tea Leaves and his colleagues plotted the data from the logs on a timeline. What it illustrated was suggestive: The conversation between the Trump and Alfa servers appeared to follow the contours of political happenings in the United States. “At election-related moments, the traffic peaked,” according to Camp. There were considerably more DNS lookups, for instance, during the two conventions.

Could there be a bigger black-kettle-calling pot in the world than Donald Trump?


Politics, Technology


I’ve been ready since July (see above) to vote for the person who isn’t the racist, demagogue, pussy-grabbing shithead.



The wires have been cut.

The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter for $30 million:

The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter, a five-year-old online consumer guide.

The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Brian Lam, a former editor at Gawker Media’s Gizmodo, founded The Wirecutter in 2011, and has self-funded the company’s growth.

The Wirecutter provides recommendations for electronics and other gadgets that are both obsessively researched and simply presented. The Wirecutter also owns The Sweethome, which takes the same approach for home appliances and other gear.

I’ve been a fan of The Wirecutter for a few years now. I think of them as a Consumer Reports for gadgets, although the range of products they review is pretty wide. I dig how they usually have only one recommendation for a product category (and a few runners up).

They do the best job of any site I’ve ever seen of answering the question, “I need a [product category]. Which [product category] should I buy?”

Just last week I went to their site for a recommendation on a surge protector.

Disregard for Hardware in a Software World

Om Malik, writing for The New Yorker:

That Samsung is facing such steep costs suggests the appeal of the original Apple design. When I asked John Maeda, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, why, then, people have turned on the design of the iPhone 7, he pointed out that perhaps these critics “seem to believe that there’s some as yet unimaginable transcendence that can happen in a small, palm-shaped, rectangular device.” Maeda said that he spent time with designers at Sony and felt their frustration designing a television set “because all you can really do is design the rectangle that the TV sits within. . . . Everything else around that screen really doesn’t matter.” The same problem holds for the iPhone. All that matters is the screen—its size, brightness, and resolution. “Now that we have all those dimensions sated, it’s basically the challenge of designing a TV set all over again,” he added.

Regarding the designers at Sony, they’re literally thinking within the the box. This is like a mobile phone designer saying in 2006, “All you can really do is either a clamshell design or something like a Palm Treo or Blackberry,” then you fast forward to 2007 and the iPhone exists. Clearly there are some small-minded people working at Sony.

To say that, “everything around the screen […] doesn’t really matter” misses the point and many opportunities completely. What a shitty way to think. Disregard for hardware is why Samsung currently has exploding phones major airlines are banning from flights.

Hardware and software are two sides of the same coin.

In September Vlad Savov wrote a great piece for The Verge on how hard it’s getting for competitors to keep up with the iPhone:

It is to Android manufacturers’ great credit that they’ve been able to build phones the size of an iPhone with specs many times better. But even once they’ve negotiated the RAM, display, battery, and design issues, they come up against the classic problem of fragmentation. Each new generation of iPhone has only one processor and two screen sizes and resolutions — so game designers and app developers know the exact hardware that they’re targeting with their new software. With Android, on the other hand, there’s a diversity of processor and graphics chips, unevenness in screen sizes and resolutions, and never any certain minimum standard of either hardware spec or software API.

This only speaks to the internal hardware that optimizes performance. There’s the external hardware you feel when you have a phone in your hands and it’s one of the main reasons so many people covet Apple products. The fit and finish. Yes, Steve Jobs’ dad taught him to use quality wood on the back side of a cabinet no one would see, but he knew damn well the front mattered a hell of a lot too. It all matters.

Hardware continues to evolve. In most cases it’s incremental with the occasional leap every so often. Apple is barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. They were the first to introduce pressure sensitivity on their multi-touch screens with 3-D Touch on the iPhone 6S. Before that they were the first to introduce a fingerprint reader on the Home button in the form of Touch ID on the iPhone 5S.

Steve Jobs famously said (via):

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

On the flip side of that quote, design is not just how it works, but what it looks and feels like.

It’s also really great if it the battery doesn’t explode in your pants.


Product, Technology


On a Bad Note

AT&T and T-Mobile have halted all Samsung Note 7 distribution amid more reports of ‘safe’ models igniting.

Spontaneous combustion. I believe this is the first phone feature Samsung hasn’t copied from Apple. Well done, South Korea.

If you’re reading this and you still have a Samsung Note 7, the always helpful Jim Dalrymple has posted a must-have accessory. You’re so thoughtful, Jim.




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For every inaction, there is a reaction.

Putting aside their policy differences and the fact that Mr. Trump disparaged Mr. Cruz’s wife and father during their primary battle, Mr. Cruz said that after considerable thought and prayer he had concluded that Mr. Trump would make a better president than Hillary Clinton.

The cowardice within the Republican party is astonishing. To not have the balls to renounce Trump and all he’s said (in general, and against his own party members) is going to have massive repercussions on the GOP.

Millions of us scratch our heads and wonder, “How did we get here?”

The lack of action to throw Trump out with the garbage many months ago explains some, but not all of that question.

I firmly believe Trump could have called Cruz’s mom a whore and he’d still endorse him.



First-Debate Loser

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten says First-Debate Losers Aren’t More Likely To Rebound In The Second Debate:

Seven out of nine times, the polls moved by less than about 2 percentage points. Trump is currently behind by 5.6 percentage points in the FiveThirtyEight polls-only popular vote forecast. So Hillary Clinton would still be up by a wider margin than she was heading into the first debate, if Trump got an average second-debate bounce. Still, the polls moved by 5 to 6 points twice, in 1988 and 1992, so such a shift isn’t out of the question.

Unlike first debates, there’s no pattern in which party tends to benefit, the party that holds the White House or the challenging party. Five times the incumbent party gained ground; four times the challenger did. The larger bounces fit this pattern as well. One (1988 for Republican George H.W. Bush) was for the incumbent party, and one (1992 for Democrat Bill Clinton) was for the challenging party.

There’s also no sign that candidates who lose the first debate are therefore more likely to rebound in the second debate.

You can argue about who you think will win tomorrow night’s debate, but you can’t argue that it won’t be interesting. If it’s true Hillary is waiting for the debate to unleash on Trump regarding his hot mic comments about his lewd comments about women including, and I quote, “grab them by the pussy”, then the debate could unravel quickly for Mister Orange Face.



Who said it first, Google or Apple?

Let’s play a game, it’s called Who Said It First?

Here’s your first clue:

“Our product represents the best in hardware and software, designed and built together.”

What’s that? You said Apple? I thought so too! I thought about when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone in 2007 and he said that Alan Kay quote, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” (YouTube)

Apple has ‘controlled the whole widget’ since the company was founded in the 70s. Yes, they had a brief stint licensing their OS to OEMs from 1986 to 1991 but it didn’t pan out well. When Steve Jobs came back to the company in 1996 he doubled down on their integrated approach which was one of many factors contributing to the success of the iMac, iPod, MacBook, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to name not a few, but the majority of products released by Apple in the last 15 years.

So if someone at Apple didn’t say it, then who did?

The quote above is from Google’s hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, and he said that earlier today at the unveiling of Google’s new phone, Pixel.

Here’s what the Pixel looks like:

Doh! My bad. That’s the iPhone 6 from last year. How the hell did I mix them up.

Here’s Google’s new phone for 2016:

Looks pretty unique, doesn’t it?

Hell, it doesn’t look anything like an iPhone 6. It doesn’t even have a Home button, just a big-ass chin! And those plastic bands at the top and bottom of the device, those have to be there! There’s literally no other way to make a smartphone without those bands. Except for the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Asus ZenFone 3, but those guys use black magic to make their phones. They cheat.

What? No, that shiny bezel around the face of the Google Pixel is from the iPhone 5 from 4 years ago so like, the statute of bezel-copying has expired, dude.

And let’s not even get into how everyone was making plastic phones before Apple started making unibody aluminium products and started plastic-shaming their competitors.

There’s a Tumblr site devoted to all the examples of Samsung blatantly ripping off Apple. I think it’s time someone started one for Google ripping off Apple. There’s many less examples, but I have a feeling those numbers are going to rise.

Google’s original mission statement was “organizing the world’s information.” (link)

They need to amend it to include, “…and putting it into devices we copies from Apple.”

Seriously, Google, you called your new phone the fucking Pixel? What a shitty name. Pixels aren’t even visible to the eye on mobile devices anymore. It’s like calling the new the HP printer the Ben Day. If this is an attempt to be hipster ironic, it’s really weak.


Influencer, Product


Dammit, Apple. You’re Supposed to Be the Ones With Good UI Design.

The grand appeal of using an e-reader is the ability to own a large library of books without adding to the colossal weight of one’s possessions. Ever since I moved away from print books I’ve been able to remove hundreds of pounds of clutter from my apartment and from my life. Storing books digitally has improved my quality of life. That being said, the various e-readers that are out there have an obligation to provide a good user experience, and they do that through design.

In the past I’ve taken Amazon to task for user interface design that I felt was subpar. Since it’s introduction, Kindle for the iPad has gone through numerous updates to its UI, and while still not perfect, it provides a fine balance of text and whitespace. The only reason I don’t use the app regularly is because Kindle doesn’t have continuous scrolling. Enter iBooks, the e-reader app from Apple.

Apple prides itself on the quality of its design. One can see it from the look and feel of Apple’s signature hardware, to the way fonts render in OSX, and everything in between. Which makes this so inexplicable:


That is a screenshot of a page in iBooks, with continuous scroll turned on, after an update to iOS 10. The margins to the right and left are too small, leaving the text crowded to the edge of the screen. When using one of the new model iPad Pros, the text is less than an inch from the edge of the device. The width of the text also interferes with the eye’s ability to flow from one line to the next. What happened to all that whitespace that designers value so much? It used to be there. This is a screenshot of the same text taken in iBooks from an iPad running iOS 9:


The second screenshot shows a much better use of margins. I know there are charlatans out there who prefer text to be much closer to the edge, but they’re wrong. Luckily, a solution that satisfies most users should not be that difficult for Apple to implement. The Kindle app already has a margin selector in the same menu where a user adjusts fonts and background colors. The settings in iBooks does not. As of right now, the experience in iBooks on the iPad has been degraded by the decision to close the margins. Were Apple to add a margin selector, it would be a vast improvement to the app.


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In August, VICE reported on a hilarious coke-smugging bust in Australia involving two young ladies who documented their whole adventure on Instagram:

It’s the largest drug bust Australia has ever seen on a boat or plane.

Before they got caught, the women documented the entire journey on Instagram and Facebook, looking joyful in Times Square in New York, drinking out of coconuts in French Polynesia, and enjoying Irish coffees in Ireland.

Hey Millennial criminals: this is the opposite of covering your tracks.