Archive for January 8, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Overcast Premium Improvements


Two big improvements for Overcast Premium, which lets you upload your own audio files (DRM-free audiobooks, lectures, draft podcasts, etc.) at and listen in your Overcast app:

  • More space: up from 2 GB to 10 GB
  • Multi-select file uploads! Finally!

Environmentally-Lit User Interface

Bob Burrough:

I’ve been working on an environmentally-lit user interface. It’s lit by the lighting around you rather than some arbitrary light source (or just blinding white).

Bob Burrough:

An environmentally-lit interface takes information from the environment around the device and uses it to render physically-accurate things on the screen. It appears as if the lights around you are shining on the things on the screen. If the lighting in your room is bright, then the things on your screen are brightly lit. They can even take on complex characteristics like mother-of-pearl or opal.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to hold a flashlight over your phone to read the web in bed. What it means is designers are empowered to use the design language of the physical world to design their interfaces. Gloss, glitter, glow-in-the-dark, or any other visual quality may be used. In the case of reading a website in a darkened room, the web designer may apply elegant backlighting or glow-in-the-dark treatments to maintain legibility. This is far superior to today’s method of making your phone act like a spotlight that shines in your face.

This is really cool.

Bob Burrough:

Flat design results in higher cognitive load.

Dave Smith:

Burrough’s “Project Erasmus” is a user-interface (UI) implementation that uses the lighting in your immediate environment to light, shade, and reflect on the software elements in the device. The result is an incredible, immersive visual effect that would make you want to use your phone even more (as if that’s possible).

Andrew Orr:

For example, software toggles and menu bars develop drop shadows and highlights based on light sources in the room. He does this by attaching an Olloclip wide angle lens to capture the light, then the software renders that light as a scene. This is real-time rendering and it makes elements on the screen appear as physical objects.

See also: TMO Daily Observations.

The iOS Menu

Simon (tweet, Hacker News):

I realised six months ago as I was using my Mac, using the menus, that I need these things — menus — in Codea. I was trying to solve a problem that has been solved for decades.

So I set out to make the best menus I could make for iOS.


Compared to all the options I considered, menus are exactly that, discoverable. You pull down a list of named features complete with shortcut keys (if a keyboard is attached). Then you activate that feature by tapping on it, or by dragging your finger and releasing.

Hamburger menus, side-drawers, whatever you want to call them, are a conventional way to bury additional and often unrelated functionality into an app. But they are much heavier than the good old-fashioned menu bar. They often pull out a whole modal side-thingy, maybe they slide all your content to the right. It’s a context switch for your brain.

iOS really needs something like this. I get that Apple didn’t want to bring over everything from the Mac’s design. But, as with some other features, I feel like they’ve had their chance to show us a better way and haven’t delivered. So they may as well reinvent the wheel.

Previously: Proof That iOS Still Hasn’t Gotten Undo Right, Make the iPad More Like the Mac, Great Alternatives to Hamburger Menus.

Update (2019-01-11): Simon:

In this post I’m going to walk you through all the other details that make this work.

John Gruber:

What they’re doing here with Codea isn’t just putting the Mac menu bar on iOS. They’ve designed and built a very iOS-looking take on a menu bar, deeply informed by the aspects of the Mac menu bar that do work on a touch screen. Something like this is desperately needed as a standard interface element on iPad, and I think could work on iPhone too.

Riccardo Mori:

Speaking of iOS apps with menus, the first instance I remember seeing was TaskPaper on iOS 6. I still use this app, by the way.

Solution for Time Machine “Error While Restoring From the Backup”

Harry Fear (via Maxwell Swadling):

A few hours into the restore (about three-quarters of the way through the data transfer) the restoration would always fail with “An error occurred while restoring from the backup.”


Initially I needed a Finder and Terminal window so I had to setup the new Mac as new with no user data so I could fully access the Time Machine backup to apply the fix. Then I connected the backup to the Mac.


Then I had to delete the problematic folder that was identified in the log[…]


Then go back into Recovery mode on the Mac and reattempt to restore from the modified backup.

iCloud Leader Leaves Apple

Kevin McLaughlin (MacRumors):

Patrick Gates, an Apple senior director of engineering who led development of iCloud, FaceTime, and iMessage during nearly 14 years at the company, has left to join a stealth startup founded by two other former Apple employees. The startup, called Humane, announced Mr. Gates had joined as chief technology officer on Dec. 19.

Mr. Gates, who worked in an organization led by Internet services chief Eddy Cue, oversaw a project in 2015 that aimed to unify Apple products like iCloud and iTunes in a single cloud platform. But the effort was delayed by friction with another Apple group led by former engineering executive Eric Billingsley, who left the company last October.

Humane, co-founded by former Apple directors Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno, is working on products that focus on “the next shift between humans and computing,” according to a note on its website.

Amir Efrati and Steve Nellis (in 2016):

Political infighting within Apple’s engineering ranks is holding back the company’s efforts to fix technical problems that have plagued iCloud and iTunes, say people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Two engineering teams working on new internal cloud-computing infrastructure to power Apple’s Web services are in open conflict, the people say. Already, the infighting has sparked at least one key employee departure, with more expected soon.

Via Dan Masters:

Noteworthy that repeated reports of dysfunction and infighting (culminating in both Apple cloud managers leaving within months of each other) aligned with personal experience of other employees as well[…]

Katharine Schwab:

Chaudhri left Apple in 2017, after spending almost two decades designing interfaces for the iPod, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV as well as the iPhone, to pursue a still-under-wraps company of his own. I recently sat down with him to talk about his time at Apple, and had the chance to ask him how he views his legacy now that the downsides of smartphones have come into focus. He cited the challenges of working as a designer at a giant corporation, where his personal ethics didn’t always align with decision-making[…]

Previously: Inside the World of Eddy Cue, Apple’s Services Chief.