Drew Rattray : Design vs. Functionality
Drew Rattray
| News and views on design vs. functionality balance across the communications and technology space.

Apple

Apple's Safari Reader May Become a Publishing Game Changer

June 7, 2011

The WWDC 2011 keynote was jam-packed with software innovations and new offerings from Apple, including new versions of its desktop and mobile operating systems, as well as the all new iCloud.  Of everything announced though, there was one new feature I saw that could potentially disrupt my day-to-day professional life if it took off, and that is the Reader update to the Safari browser.

In a nutshell, if you navigate to a Web page containing an article while using Safari 5 and click the Reader icon in the Smart Address field, the article is pulled forward cleanly, with all disruption, advertising, and unassociated visuals removed. 

The BlackBerry Storm 8 Months Later

August 18, 2009

I really wanted to like this Smartphone.  I've tried so hard.  People ask me on a daily basis how I like the Storm.  I can't tell if they ask out of general curiosity, or pity, but I lie either way and say it's great.  It's terrible, but I have my reasons.  Primarily, I really hate to admit failure in my investment of time and money.  Secondly, I really did hope things would get better with upgrades. It's now been 8 months.  There's been a few OS upgrades, and there is reports of a new model possibly surfacing in November.  It's time to set things straight.

Official review from someone that used the BlackBerry Storm extensively for 8 months:
Run, don't walk away from this BlackBerry.

It had so much potential, so much promise... so many bugs.   When I wake up to the alarm on my BlackBerry Storm every morning (that it decides to work), I glance over at my night table and all I can think about is the "F" word.

Frustration.

No wait...  Failure.  No, maybe Flop.  Or maybe... nahhh can't say that here.

As soon as I depress the screen (multiple times for it to register) to activate snooze for the 5th time, I know all I have to look forward to with my hand-held headache is a full day worth of cursing as my little black and chrome friend refuses to work, lags out, hangs up, or just turns off for no reason.  Sometimes I don't even get to hit snooze.  Those are the mornings I wake up on my own due to the failure of the device overnight.  Those mornings are my favorite.  And by "favorite" I really mean the phone is lucky to still be in one piece at that point.  Those are the mornings that some type of battery or hardware failure occurred overnight and I am greeted with a white screen and an icon of a battery with a blue lightning bolt through it.

Those are the special mornings that I get to take the next couple of hours trying to get the phone to take a charge, pulling the battery, and holding buttons on boot screens, until finally I hit the perfect combination of random events that tell my BlackBerry Storm to come back to life.

Speaking of battery pulls, it's a daily occurrence.  Sometimes multiple times a day.














IE6 Needs to Go

August 11, 2009

I seriously dislike Microsoft products for the most part.  Especially their browser.  As a web designer, Internet Explorer has been a thorn in my side for the better part of a decade.  But, as sad as it is, the world needs Microsoft.  What we no longer need is IE6.

If you've read any of this blog, you know that I am a big proponent of using the next best thing.  Moving forward with technology, ideas, solutions, and standards.  Right now, supporting IE6 specifically is the biggest hurdle I have to overcome on a daily basis.  It's old technology that doesn't support current web standards, yet 15-20% of web users still use it as their primary browser.

No one wants to build a site that doesn't work properly for 1/5 of their target audience, but the time and money wasted on building a site that holds up in today's markets and is IE6 compatible is ridiculous.  It's 2009!  Designers and programmers should not have their creativity and ingenuity handcuffed because people still choose to use a browser that doesn't support advanced CSS or XHTML.  The research, the hacks, the workarounds, the extra lines of code, the extra processes that slow the site down... they aren't worth the money spent by companies and developers. Especially when their user base can upgrade their IE browser for free.  Yeah that's right, it's FREE.

Afraid of upgrading your IE browser? Upgrading your OS to Vista left a bad Microsoft taste in your mouth?  I don't blame you.  OK, here's another solution then.





New iPod Shuffle Might Just Be Too Small

March 13, 2009

Apple has been following a trend of going smaller and sleeker with their designs, and continue to push the envelope with the introduction of the new iPod Shuffle this week.  Even though it now has 4GB of memory (1,000 songs), it's about half the volume of the last version...which was already just slightly bigger than a quarter.  The unit now basically looks like a stick of Orbit gum in an aluminum wrapper with a headphone jack and a clip.  It still has no screen.  It also has no controls on the unit itself other than the on/off switch, there's no room.  Instead, they moved them to the wire of the custom Apple headphones.

New features include something called VoiceOver, where for the first time on an iPod Shuffle you can identify what or who you are listening to from a soothing male voice that comes directly from the iPod.

Yes...your iPod can now talk to you.

Personally, I'm not sold on this feature.  I make the playlists that load onto my old Shuffle, so I know it's music that I enjoy and can already identify on my own.  The name of the iPod is the "Shuffle", so you can conclude pretty quickly that its entire purpose is to randomly shuffle through what you loaded into it.  The whole thing just seems unnecessary.  It's a weak attempt at trying to give some kind of playlist control, without a display, to a unit that really doesn't require it.

Anyways, I'm harping on a feature that in my eyes (or ears) doesn't really matter.

What's the biggest reason for me not upgrading my old iPod Shuffle?  The controls being moved to the earbuds.  Currently, in order for this new iPod to work, you MUST use the custom Apple earbuds for this iPod.  It's the only way to get it to work, because they are the only ones with the controls.  Apple has said it is working with headphone makers to develop compatible earphones for the shuffle, but nothing else is on the market so far.  I don't know about most people, but Apple earbuds destroy my ears, and the quality isn't anything to brag about.  I'm in pain by the 3rd or 4th song, and want them out immediately.  I'm pretty particular about sound quality and comfort and have invested in Bose Tri-Port In-Ear Headphones for my mobile listening pleasure.  CNET doesn't give them the greatest review, but I think the sound from them is amazing and they are probably the most comfortable headphones I have ever used. 

I'm not very keen on the idea of replacing my favorite headphones (which cost more than the new $80 shuffle to begin with) with something sub-par just because Apple decided smaller is better. 











The PerfectStorm?

January 18, 2009

iTunes abandons DRM

January 6, 2009

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an access control technology designed to limit the functionality of digital media.  By functionality, I mean the ability of a consumer to copy songs or move them to multiple computers.  Most of the music inventory that can be downloaded from iTunes to date has DRM embedded into it.  It's frustrating, and it drives music lovers from around the world to bypass paying for their music all together just so they can have full access to their music, a.k.a. illegal downloading.

At the Macworld Expo trade show today (Tuesday 1/6), Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President, gave the first keynote delivered at Macworld since 1997 that was not given by Steve Jobs.  He announced that iTunes will be offering songs in three pricing tiers beginning in April: $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29.  Which price you get all depends on the recording company the song came from.

The pricing tier is a result of a flexibility offering Apple gave record labels to convince them to agree to sell all of their songs DRM free.  Apple began offering 8 million of their 10 million songs today DRM free, and plan to have the other 2 million available by the end of the quarter.

I understand the plight of many music lovers.  Today's music is saturated and often bland.  Many do not want to pay $10-20 dollars for a full album from the music store, only to get 1 or 2 quality tracks.  Most of us have figured out the wonders of paying a dollar or two to download the tracks we want from iTunes instantly, and bypassing the crap.  But DRM is infuriating, and although I understand why it has been implemented in the past, it can drive a person to look elsewhere for their music.  By dropping prices on some songs and offering everything DRM free, Apple may be able to coax some of the illegal music downloader's back into a legit music lifestyle, and cashing in on the response.







Bloggers dream of a perfect iPhone

December 29, 2008

Earlier this week Gizmodo posted a concept design of what they vision should be the next generation of the popular iPhone.  The design was originally developed by blogger Matt Brady and named the iPhone Elite.  Gizmodo took his concept and tweaked it with some added features of their own and named it the iPhone Pro.

Their basic complaints about the current iPhone follows that of many in the blogosphere.  No physical keyboard, lack of storage, and a sub-par camera.  The iPhone Pro concept features 60 GB of storage, a slide-out keyboard, true 16:9 aspect ratio, and a better all around camera.

While Matt's original concept is incredible, I think Gizmodo made one very impressive addition.  A D-Pad and two buttons.  iPhone games are becoming increasingly popular and by adding easier and more recognizable controls, I think it could really begin to compete with handhelds like the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

The only problem that I can see with all of this is the risk of adding too much size.  With an added keyboard and a better camera with zoom capabilities, you could potentially get close to doubling the 4.7 ounces that the iPhone 3G currently weighs.  There's also the potential that the depth would increase to well over a half inch (currently at 0.48 inches).  Features are great, but no one wants to talk to a brick.





Even Santa needs Tech

December 22, 2008

The computer mouse goes over the hill

December 10, 2008

The new MacBook vs. the Economy

November 25, 2008

On November 10th, Digitimes reported that Apple and Asustek were reducing notebook outsourcing by 20-30% for the fourth quarter of this year.  This came less than a month after the October 14th launch of the Unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro.  It's not very surprising in these economic times, and it also may be that they are bringing production levels down to a normal level after trying to meet the demands of the first month after launch.

Recent reports say that Apple saw a 28% increase in sales over last October following the launch of the new MacBooks and HP has reported that their Q3 notebook revenue grew 26%. But in the long run, I think Apple might be pricing itself out of the competition with how tight money is this holiday season.

The new MacBooks haven't reduced in price at all as far as I can tell, while Windows notebooks have seen about a 20% price drop in the past 2 years.  I'm a Mac fan, but you have to wonder how it is all adding up?



1 2 Next