Archive for November 11, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Sideloading f.lux on iOS

f.lux, the excellent Mac display color adjuster, has not been available for iOS except via jailbreaking. Now, however, there is a way to sideload it (comments):

In Xcode 7, you can install apps directly to your iOS device with a free account from Apple. So we decided to make a beta version of f.lux for people to try.

It’s a few more steps than installing the app store, but there are plenty of harder things even on Pinterest. So, here’s how to get f.lux installed on your iOS device.

Note that although you are downloading an Xcode project, it’s not open source. You’re just using Xcode to codesign the app and install it on your device.

f.lux uses location services to figure out the light levels in your area. The iOS version has two settings, day and night, whereas the Mac version automatically uses a bedtime setting late at night. The iOS version does, however, have the manual Darkroom mode.

It seems crazy to me that apps like this need to use a network connection and push notifications just to ensure that they get periodic minimal background processing time.

Given that f.lux no longer requires jailbreaking, it’s not clear to me what’s keeping it out of the App Store. Presumably, it relies on an API that’s private.

Update (2015-11-11): It’s a bit disconcerting, but with f.lux installed my iPhone’s screen will turn on every once in a while. I think this is because it has to wake up the screen to change the colors. Also, I don’t like the way it makes the camera look.

Riccardo Mori has a photo showing the f.lux effect.

Update (2015-11-12): The updated FAQ suggests that you can avoid waking the screen by allowing notifications and notes that there is a bedtime mode; it just isn’t configurable yet. However, I found that with notifications enabled it still wakes up the display.

Update (2015-11-13): Jason Snell:

Here’s hoping that iOS 10 might offer a feature that makes f.lux unnecessary, but in the meantime the only way to use f.lux on iOS has been to jailbreak your devices and download it from the Cydia store.

Alas: Apple Forbids Sideloading Flux.

How Apple Is Giving Design a Bad Name

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini (via Don Norman, comments):

The products, especially those built on iOS, Apple’s operating system for mobile devices, no longer follow the well-known, well-established principles of design that Apple developed several decades ago. These principles, based on experimental science as well as common sense, opened up the power of computing to several generations, establishing Apple’s well-deserved reputation for understandability and ease of use. Alas, Apple has abandoned many of these principles. True, Apple’s design guidelines for developers for both iOS and the Mac OS X still pay token homage to the principles, but, inside Apple, many of the principles are no longer practiced at all. Apple has lost its way, driven by concern for style and appearance at the expense of understandability and usage.

Apple is destroying design. Worse, it is revitalizing the old belief that design is only about making things look pretty. No, not so! Design is a way of thinking, of determining people’s true, underlying needs, and then delivering products and services that help them.

[…]

What kind of design philosophy requires millions of its users to have to pretend they are disabled in order to be able to use the product? Apple could have designed its phone so that the majority of people could read and use the phone without having to label themselves as needy, disabled, and requiring assistance. Even worse, the assistive corrections destroy the very beauty Apple is so fond of as well as sometimes making the text no longer fit on the screen.

[…]

Unfortunately, visually simple appearance does not result in ease of use, as the vast literature in academic journals on human-computer interaction and human factors demonstrates.

There are lots of good points here, although I don’t think the solutions are necessarily clear. There are tough choices to make when the screen is so small. In my view, the biggest usability problem right now is not Apple’s design but rather the general buggy state of its software. On both iOS and Mac, I am running into new little things that don’t work properly every day. And then there are the larger issues, like the fact that my iPhone’s ringer sometimes sounds muffled until I reboot and that the Do Not Disturb exclusion list doesn’t always work. On the Mac, Safari and Mail routinely stop working.

Previously: Long-Term Exposure to Flat Design.

Update (2015-11-13): Lukas Mathis:

That’s not a great way to make design decisions. Remember how funny we thought the Blackberry Storm was, with its «sometime you just tap it, but sometimes you have to press harder and make it actually click» screen? Well, that’s now your iPhone.

Likewise, people made fun of Windows 8, and how people found it hard to use at first, but one of its genius decisions was to put all of its hidden features behind edge swipes. In order to figure out how to find possible actions in Windows 8, you had to learn exactly one thing: swipe from the sides of the screen to see your options.

Update (2015-11-16): Chris Pirillo:

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a memo circulating internally which outlines a game plan for every release along the lines of: “Get our hardware out the door, but keep the software working poor.”

Update (2015-11-24): Andy Ihnatko:

I’ve had plenty of reasons to ask myself some of the same questions…particularly in the past month.

[…]

More than that, though, I still haven’t warmed to Apple’s 2013 overhaul of the iOS interface. Even after two years with it I experience many of the problems that Don and Tog talk about in their article. The UI is so subtle and stripped down that I often find myself hunting around the screen to figure out what I need to tap to make something happen. I just like Android 6 better.

Adam C. Engst:

The article is a damning indictment, coming as it does from some of the leading voices in the user experience field, and frankly, it has the best chance of any criticism of being heard at Apple. (That said, these points aren’t new — back in 2010, Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen wrote a more general criticism of gestural interfaces in the ACM CHI magazine Interactions.) The situation is similar to that of the emperor’s new clothes — although many in the Apple community have pointed out interface problems in Apple’s recent software (cough iTunes cough), the impression one gets is that Apple’s executives can’t hear any nay-saying because of the continual sound of money rolling in. Alas, usability is no more defined by corporate profits now than it was in the 1990s when Microsoft dominated the computer industry.

These interface issues aren’t just a matter of academic complaint — in writing and editing TidBITS articles and Take Control books for everyday users, we constantly run across tasks in Apple apps that are difficult to document because they’re dependent both on multiple levels of context and visual controls that have no names[…]

See also: The Talk Show.

Update (2015-12-12): Lloyd Chambers:

Over two years ago in iPhone Viewing Tips for Presbyopia and Vision Issues I discussed one core design problem: unreadability of text on iOS. What Norman and Tognazzini point out matches my experience exactly:

On Keyboards and Thinness

Riccardo Mori:

The other day, my friend Alex Roddie pointed me to this article on MacRumors: Apple Patents Switch-Less Force Touch Keyboard, Could Lead to Thinner Macs. Alex’s further comments were: I know Apple patents things all the time, but this one seems particularly ominous. — I think they have an end goal in mind of paper-thin (or completely insubstantial) computers for the sake of fashion. — And the rest of the industry will inevitably copy Apple, as it always has.

[…]

Except for the PowerBook Duo 280c and the eMate 300, typing on all these keyboards has been, overall, a great experience and a better experience for my fingers, hands, and wrists than typing on more recent Apple keyboards. In some cases — like the PowerBook G3 and the iBook — the shape and design of the laptop’s top case really helps and works in synergy with the keyboard in making the typing experience pleasant. It is precisely the absence of thinness and flatness (of the computer and the keys) that makes typing better.

[…]

Perhaps all these keyboard designs weren’t as stylish as the latest flat and thin Apple trend, but they were certainly keyboards that did their job quite well, no matter how long the typing session. And, most importantly, they were keyboards that didn’t need ‘adjusting’. I spent years typing on them and my fingers, hands, wrists are still pain-free and stress-free. Three days typing on a 12-inch retina MacBook, and my fingertips hurt as if I had been tapping on a block of marble.

After trying the new MacBook keyboard, I share his concern about the future of Apple keyboards. However, I don’t miss the old Apple notebook keyboards at all. In my view, the current MacBook Air/Pro and non-magic wireless keyboards are terrific.