Archive for November 10, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Microsoft Band 2

David Pogue:

For decades, Microsoft was considered a company distinguished by copycatting and mediocrity. But today, the company is leading, not following. The latest products, like the Surface Pro 4, the Surface Book, and Windows 10, are elegant, coherent, and truly innovative. The company name may be the same, but the people working there seem to be completely different.


Unlike any other touchscreen smartwatch, the Band works with any brand of phone: iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone.


Your fitness data isn’t locked into the Microsoft app. You can share its data with popular apps from other companies, like Strava, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal, and so on.


The Band 2 is one of the most successful fitness wearables ever made. It strikes a unique halfway position on the spectrum between fitness band and smartwatch.

Apple on Hamburger Menus

Manbolo quoting Apple’s Mike Stern (via Samuel Goodwin):

I’m not going to say that there’s no place for these controls categorically. I think there are some apps that could maybe use one. But I will say that their value is greatly over-stated, and they have huge usability downsides too.


Remember, the three key things about an intuitive navigation system is that they tell you where you are, and they show you where else you can go. Hamburger menus are terrible at both of those things, because the menu is not on the screen. It’s not visible. Only the button to display the menu is.

Previously: The Hamburger Menu Doesn’t Work, Hamburgers and Basements.

Apple’s Beautiful Construction Barriers

Dave Caolo:

When I saw these photos of the forthcoming Apple Store in Amsterdam, I noticed how great the construction barriers look. Typically barriers like this are erected simply to discourage prying eyes, but Apple often uses them as a marketing opportunity. This practice isn’t unique to Apple, of course, nor does the company always make such an effort. But when it does, the results are often charming. Here’s a look at some clever barriers Apple has used.


I’m biased as a former Bostonian, but my favorite example graced the Boylston Street Store. Made to resemble Fenway Park’s Green Monster, Apple successfully pandered to Red Sox Nation.

George Boole: a 200-Year View

Stephen Wolfram:

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Boole. In our modern digital world, we’re always hearing about “Boolean variables”—1 or 0, true or false. And one might think, “What a trivial idea! Why did someone even explicitly need to invent it?” But as is so often the case, there’s a deeper story—for Boolean variables were really just a side effect of an important intellectual advance that George Boole made.

When George Boole came onto the scene, the disciplines of logic and mathematics had developed quite separately for more than 2000 years. And George Boole’s great achievement was to show how to bring them together, through the concept of what’s now called Boolean algebra. And in doing so he effectively created the field of mathematical logic, and set the stage for the long series of developments that led for example to universal computation.


It is something of an irony that George Boole, committed as he was to the methods of algebra, calculus and continuous mathematics, should have come to symbolize discrete variables. But to be fair, this took a while. In the decades after he died, the primary influence of Boole’s work on logic was on the wave of abstraction and formalization that swept through mathematics—involving people like Frege, Peano, Hilbert, Whitehead, Russell and eventually Gödel and Turing. And it was only in 1937, with the work of Claude Shannon on switching networks, that Boolean algebra began to be used for practical purposes.

Long-Term Exposure to Flat Design

Kate Meyer:

Clickable UI elements with absent or weak visual signifiers condition users over time to click and hover uncertainly across pages—reducing efficiency and increasing reliance on contextual cues and immediate click feedback. Young adult users may be better at perceiving subtle clickability clues, but they don’t enjoy click uncertainty any more than other age groups.


The motivation behind minimalist and flat design was a desire to get the ugly distractions out of the interface, so that the focus is on the content and user tasks. It’s ironic, then, that the misuse of these design styles slows users down by forcing them to think harder about what options are available to them.

The Mac App Store: With Convenience Comes Compromise

Rob Griffiths:

A user may not know what sandboxing is, but they may wonder why a developer “chose” to put up an annoying “please grant permission” dialog box when they try to do something.


This may not seem limiting, but we’ve heard from many customers who tell us they use computers at work that are blocked from the App Store; these buyers would have no recourse if we sold solely on the Mac App Store.


App review times can be an issue if you’re trying to patch a critical bug or get a major new release in customers’ hands. Currently, the review time is about seven days[…]

More important than the average review time is its variance. A week is bad enough compared with the minutes that it takes to update a directly sold app. However, sometimes the review process stretches on for a month or two, for no discernible reason.