An open letter to Gary Zenkel

I have not been watching the Olympics. My wife and kids are out of town and I’ve been the only one in my house since July 25 — and I’ve barely even turned on the television. I have, however, used my iPad extensively to watch movies and television shows. If I was able to use the NBC iOS apps to watch the Olympics, I would, but they ridiculously require a cable subscription to login. I do have an antenna that brings the NBC network into my home, but it is less convenient (for me) to watch that way, and I’m opposed to the delay NBC is imposing on events.

So, I’ve sent the following email to Gary Zenkel, the NBC executive in charge of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Gary,

I’m sure you’ve been getting tons of email of late, but I just want to add my voice to the growing number of people that are utterly dissatisfied with and appalled by the way NBC has handled this year’s Olympic coverage.
Specifically:
  1. Not airing events live is inexcusable. If a popular event takes place at an inconvenient time for NBC’s advertisers, feel free to rebroadcast the event during primetime if you want, but in an age of Twitter, Facebook, and internet real-time updates, NBC should be airing the events as they happen.
  2. Requiring a cable subscription login for you iOS apps is ridiculous and insulting. I don’t have cable, and therefore cannot use the apps. I do have an antenna and a television, so I could watch the previously-mentioned crappy experience provided by NBC, but I choose not to and you lost a viewer of your network.
I hope the backlash you’ve felt this year will spur NBC to evaluate it’s priorities and make changes that will respect your network’s viewers, as opposed to corporate advertisers.
Sincerely,
Park

Gary’s email is gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com, and if you feel the same, I’d recommend sending him an email, too.

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Bad writing by iFixit.com blog spurs even worse posts on TUAW.com and TiPb.com about iPhone 4S proximity sensor and Siri

On November 9, iFixit.com posted a blog entry about the proximity sensor on the iPhone 4S. They begin by saying:

During our iPhone 4S teardown, iFixit buddy Markus noted that the new iPhone had a rather unusual-looking black component next to the ambient light sensor. We didn’t make much of a fuss about it since we were knee-deep in disassembly pictures, but the little black box certainly piqued our curiosity.

They later explain that the “unusual-looking black component” was the infrared LED proximity sensor—a sensor that’s on every iPhone, not just the 4S. The post goes on to explain that the proximity sensor on an iPhone 4S comes on whenever the screen is on, if you have Siri set to activate whenever you hold the phone to your face. The proximity sensors in all other iPhones only come on during an active call (or a Skype, Viber, Tango, etc. call).

My question is: Why were the people at iFixit so mystified by the iPhone 4S proximity sensor? These people are iPhone hardware experts, it’s not a new feature, and it’s in the same general (if not exact) location as on all other iPhones. During iFixit’s teardown report, they only mention a singular “infra-red LED proximity sensor” in Step 14 of page 2.

Then for some reason (my guess is lazy reporting and a desire for page views), both TUAW.com and TiPb.com write posts claiming that iFixit has revealed that the iPhone 4S has a secondary proximity sensor for Siri (TUAW link, TiPb link). No, iFixit feigned confusion (in my opinion) about the proximity sensor hardware to add dramatic effect to their post about how Siri uses the proximity sensor.

Laziness all around.

Nokia N9 and MeeGo look great

Engadget has a hands-on with the N9 which runs MeeGo 1.2—and the OS looks amazing. If it really is as responsive as it looks in the videos, I wonder why Nokia decided to kill it and use Windows Phone 7 instead.

The hardware, too, looks great. They’ve done something I wish Apple would do, which is to favor function over form. The iPhone 4’s glass back and hard edges look good, but make the phone less durable and less comfortable to hold and press against your ear. Contrast that with the N9’s unibody polycarbonate shell, which looks to be lighter, more durable, and more comfortable to use.

Final Cut Pro X criticism

Project management in FCP X

A detailed and specific criticism of the new Final Cut Pro. Quite funny, too.

Patent troll Lodsys, LLC is threatening iOS devs with ridiculously worded patent

Lodsys, LLC has recently sent letters to several iOS devs, claiming the devs are infringing on a patent for in-app purchases. The patent, number 7222078, is titled “Methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network.” Below is the patent “abstract”:

In an exemplary system, information is received at a central location from different units of a commodity. The information is generated from two-way local interactions between users of the different units of the commodity and a user interface in the different units of the commodity. The interactions elicit from respective users their perceptions of the commodity.

Reminds me of those signs and ads in Japan that are in English, but clearly written by someone with a very poor grasp of the language. The full patent description is much, much longer, but unfortunately, just as poorly written. I’m no patent lawyer, but it disgusts me that patents like this are ever granted—especially when the “inventor” is not actually implementing the idea.

Shame on Lodsys. Double so for targeting devs instead of Apple.

(h/t: Marco Arment)

Tweetbot review: good, but not great

Since Tweetbot for the iPhone came out on April 13, 2011, I’ve been using it as my main Twitter client. It’s good, and the interface is slick and gorgeous, but I already find it lacking in some significant ways compared to Echofon, my main Twitter client for the past several months.

First, it doesn’t have inline photo previews. I absolutely love this feature of Echofon and it’s one of the first things I look for when trying out a new Twitter app. I tap on most of the photos in my Twitter feed anyway and view them full-screen, but occasionally I’ll see the thumbnail of a photo someone posted and know that I don’t need or want to enlarge it. This may seem insignificant, but when not on wifi it can sometimes take a while for photos to load, and I can skip all that if I get enough information from the thumbnail. And sometimes I’m just interested in the photos people have posted, and it’s really nice to be able to scan my feed for posts that have photos. And it’s not just photo previews, it shows a little thumbnail when people post links to YouTube videos, also. The one drawback that I’ve noticed is that the thumbnails are only in your main Twitter feed, so if you drill down to someone’s timeline, the photos and videos are just links.

Second, the method Echofon uses when you want to @ reply (or “mention”) someone in a tweet is more efficient for how I use it. The idea is that the app will present you with a tappable list of options based on the letters you type after the “@” symbol. Echofon only displays people you follow, and that’s who I’m usually going to mention in a tweet. But Tweetbot displays much more than just the people you follow, from testing it it seems to display people you follow, people who follow you, people you’ve @ replied to in the past (whether or not you follow them), and even some people who’s Twitter account I’ve simply viewed. To be honest, there are so many people in the list that I’m not sure what the criteria are.

How it works is this: When composing a tweet, you type the “@” symbol and then begin typing the Twitter name of the person you want to mention. In Echofon, a row of tappable buttons with the Twitter name and picture of people matching the letters you’ve typed will appear at the bottom of the compose window. Depending on the length of Twitter names displayed, you can usually see between three and four options, and the options begin appearing when you type the first letter after the “@” symbol. In Tweetbot, a small icon (looks like the silhouette of a head and shoulders) appears under the cursor immediately after you type the “@” symbol. Tapping on the icon activates a slide-up panel with a search field at the top, a keyboard at the bottom, and a scrollable list of options in the middle. Keep typing letters to narrow the search results, and tap on the Twitter account you want to mention when you see it in the list. The Tweetbot implementation may be more powerful because it doesn’t limit you to the people you follow, but it also takes more taps to get it done. For me, the simplicity of how Echofon does it works best.

Third, there’s no companion Mac app that syncs to your first unread tweet. I use this all the time since in a typical day I’ll read my Twitter feed on a minimum of three devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook), and sometimes on five (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, work Mac, and wife’s Mac). Say you open Echofon on your iPhone during breakfast and read all your unread tweets, making your way to the top of your feed. Then you close the app. At lunch you open Echofon on your Mac and there are 30 new tweet. Echofon for Mac will auto-scroll to the first unread tweet, based on where you left off hours before on your iPhone. Then say you close the Mac app and don’t check your Twitter feed again until after dinner, this time on your iPad. Now there are 45 new tweets since you last checked on your Mac, but Echofon is syncing every time you open it, so the app on your iPad knows to mark the 30 tweets you read on your Mac as read, and auto-scrolls to the first of the 45 new tweets. I follow less than 70 people, and this feature makes sure I can always pick up where I left off, no matter what I’m using to view my Twitter feed.

With Tweetbot, the only way to pick up where you left off is to always use Tweetbot. If you use it to check Twitter in the morning then use a desktop app all day at a desk, Tweetbot won’t know you’ve already read all those tweets from during the day, and you’ll have to scroll up looking for the first tweet you don’t recognize. If Twitter would add an element to their API that synced read status of your timeline, maybe this third issue could be eliminated (assuming developers all update their apps).

I could definitely live with Tweetbot’s @ reply method, but until they address and fix my first and third issues with the app, I’ll stick with Echofon as my main Twitter client.

WikiLeaks is not the problem

Mark A. Thiessen, an apparently ignorant columnist for The Washington Post says: “You’re either with us, or you’re with WikiLeaks

Some say attacking WikiLeaks would be fruitless. Really? In the past year, the Iranian nuclear system has been crippled by a computer worm called “Stuxnet,” which has attacked Iran’s industrial systems and the personal computers of Iranian nuclear scientists. To this day, no one has traced the origin of the worm. Imagine the impact on WikiLeaks’s ability to distribute additional classified information if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm that would fry the computer of anyone who downloaded the documents. WikiLeaks would probably have very few future visitors to its Web site.

As Matt Honan said, with regard to the above quote, it’s “one of the dumbest things ever written about the Internet.”

Thiessen sounds like a scared little man, afraid to stand up for himself. Afraid that the world he lives in is too scary. So afraid that he’s willing to put all his trust in the same government that has been embarrassed by the documents and videos of WikiLeaks, showing what terrible things the US government is capable of. Thiessen only shows how narrow-minded he is. The discussion should not be about WikiLeaks, it should be about the information the site has brought to our attention.

(via Darring Fireball)