Protect My Data, Earn My Business

This morning, my friend Brian tweeted this article, which examines Microsoft’s new Privacy Policy and Service Agreement, which were just released following the arrival of Windows 10. It’s a fairly short article, and worth a read.

I have a tendency to root for the underdog, and Microsoft certainly fits that descriptor these days, especially in the mobile market. As such, I have been very interested in Microsoft’s efforts lately, even going so far as switching to a Windows Phone when my iPhone’s screen shattered a couple of months back.

Honestly, Microsoft’s products have been on a real upswing lately. Windows Phone is a genuinely good experience, and from all reports it seems that Windows 10 is the real deal as well. I’ve been hearing so many good things, I was earnestly considering switching back to Windows when it comes time to replace my aging MacBook Pro. It would be nice, after all, to avoid paying the Apple hardware tax.

But I won’t deal with a company that I can’t trust, a company that doesn’t respect me as a person with a reasonable desire for privacy, rather than just a collection of data to be monetized at any and every opportunity. It seems that in the marketplace of today, Apple is the only company that understands this. Google certainly doesn’t get it. Facebook REALLY doesn’t get it. And, it seems, neither does Microsoft.

Apple is only a company, and like any company their main goal is profit. This much is obvious to me and most people. But Apple still makes an effort to protect the data of its customers, or at least to not senselessly pillage it for additional revenue streams. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its competitors. I had hopes that Microsoft would make some effort as well, to be at least a little better than Google and Facebook in this regard, but it seems I was mistaken.

It looks like I’ll be going back to Apple products at the nearest opportunity.

On Finishing

A thread on app.net today made me think about finishing. Finishing as in, “follow through”, or “getting things done”. In my observations, people who consistently and routinely finish things are fairly rare. Many, many people (myself included) struggle with being able to finish the projects we start. Or we have ideas, but only scratch the surface of an implementation before giving up. Or we don’t start at all.

I started to latch on to this idea quite a while ago in fact, but it’s spent some time marinating in my brain and as a result, the feeling has only become more powerful. I am convinced that this ability to slog through the not-so-fun and kind-of-boring parts of any project is a real indicator of people who have the ability to be successful.

As I stated above, I myself have fallen into this trap more times than I can count, but the first step on the path to change is acceptance. I have been making a real effort to finish my projects, and will continue to do so.

  1. I finished my first app, Affirmative, in late 2012. Despite being fairly simple and straightforward, it took me nine months to complete. I never expected it to really get popular, and it hasn’t, but the experience creating it has been valuable, and I am proud of my accomplishment.
  2. I finished a second app, Newflix, in January 2013. Unfortunately it was rejected by Apple. In the end, while I felt it was a genuinely useful tool, it was deemed “too simple” by Apple and I decided to move on. Still proud to have finished another app, even if no one gets to see it. :P

Despite my progress in becoming someone who “finishes things”, I have not been totally successful in my projects, and I have not been able to kick the flakey-ness habit altogether:

  1. I had planned a social media service (not a network) called Benson, and tested demand using advertising and a squeeze page. Eventually I decided to abandon the project due to lukewarm demand, and a strong feeling that if I decided to build a service relying on Twitter integration, Twitter would eventually screw me over. :)

Now I am currently working on two other projects, one small and one rather ambitious. Both of these projects are past the “new and shiny” phase, but I still feel like I have the strength and moral fortitude to see them to completion.

  1. A Chrome extension called Inspresso (working title). Was inspired to build this after using Geisha for a while, though the two extensions will end up being quite different. I am happy to say I am more than halfway finished this project, and with any luck it will be released in the next couple of weeks. Uh oh I just gave myself a deadline.
  2. A game (!) called Arkaia (again, working title), built with the Unity Engine. I started working on this on my own, building a simple prototype to prove to myself that I had the skills required to create what I was envisioning. Now that I’ve managed to do that, I’ve included Spencer Goldade to help me with the mountain of creative work that will need to go into this game. :)

Both of these projects are going to take a lot of work, but I am going to do everything in my power to see them through. Wish me luck!

Software Imposter Syndrome

I feel a little anxious using the word “Imposter Syndrome” to describe my feelings, because I am a SWM, and usually see that term used by people with far less privilege than myself. In any case, it does seem like an accurate descriptor in this situation, and hopefully I won’t offend anyone by using it.

I have been tinkering with and building websites for years, but over the last couple I have been trying to educate myself and learn more of the “hardcore programming” stuff needed to make full-blown applications and games, for platforms such as iOS. This means a much higher level of coding than I had ever previously accomplished, and I’ve been learning (fumbling and stumbling) as I go.

I’ve accomplished one app using Appcelerator Titanium, which uses a JavaScript SDK. While I am proud of that accomplishment, it feels a little “fake” to me because I didn’t use real Objective-C. And now, I’m trying my hand at building a game (hopefully for eventual iOS distribution) in Unity3D. I have made some significant progress, but as I write scripts I can’t help but hear a nagging voice in my head, telling me that I’m probably “not writing this function in the best way” or “that operation is probably too expensive, and there’s probably a better one I don’t know about”, and the inevitable “you’re doing something wrong if you have to spend that much time on StackOverflow”. Even though I’m technically programming, I don’t feel like I should really advertise that fact, let alone call myself a programmer, because I’m much less skilled than most everyone else.

I know I’m just learning, and I know I’m not going to know everything, ever, even if I continue doing this stuff for another 10 years. But I read blog posts and threads on Hacker News from guys with CS degrees and feel really dumb. If these guys read my code they’d probably cringe, die laughing, or both.

Still, I soldier on. I think that learning-by-doing is a powerful method, and the benefits outweigh the risks of feeling like an idiot. I also subscribe to the popular sentiments of “ship it” and “ideas aren’t important; execution is what matters”. I would rather complete and release an app, game, etc. that isn’t perfect (and learn from the experience) than never release anything because I’m forever tinkering on it and getting nowhere.

Maybe one day I’ll be a real programmer… Until then, if you need me, I’ll be on StackOverflow.

Still Figuring Things Out

In my post-Facebook existence, I am still figuring out how I want things to work on my blog. I have some photos of the little monkey that I’d like to post, but I want to make those “Family Stuff” posts a little more private, but I also don’t want to make it a major pain to access them. I am evaluating my options, and in the meantime cute pictures of the monkey are piling up on my phone. Sit tight! :)

Leaving Facebook

I have decided to finally say goodbye to Facebook (and Instagram too). While Facebook is certainly handy for keeping in touch with friends and family, it has become increasingly useless to me on a day-to-day basis, and it continues to get creepier every day.

With a thought towards where my content is kept, and who has ownership of that content, I’ve decided to simply move towards the tried-and-true method of blogging. Instead of being extremely focused on one subject, this blog will expand into my personal timeline of everything and anything. That said, I will try to keep things organized.

I know that many of you out there, my friends and relatives, like to see what we’re up to, especially in regards to Jack. I don’t want to make things too complicated and overburden anyone, so I’ve set up Email Subscriptions for the specific pieces of the site you may be interested in (see the blue subscribe button in the sidebar).

I hope that being able to subscribe to the specific types of content that you want to see will enable us to keep in touch, with a minimum of fuss. You’ll only see the posts that you’re interested in, and you won’t have to remember to check back all the time to see new posts.

Thanks for reading!

P.S.: For an exhaustive list of Facebook’s creepiness, check out this page.

Picking nits about iOS 7

So, the iOS 7 beta has been out for a couple of days now, so anyone with a developer account has been able to download it, install it, play with it, and of course—formulate opinions!

Now iOS 7 is currently in beta, as everyone knows, so I never expected a totally polished experience, but I wanted to talk a little about the new UI icons. This seems more like a design decision than beta roughness, and one of the things that really annoys me while I have been using iOS 7.

The newest version of iOS is all about the clean, pared down aesthetic, but with some elements I think Apple takes this idea too far. The UI icons, for instance, are built out of nothing but thin lines. I feel this hurts the legibility of the icons, and feel that it’s possible to design icons that fit with the clean aesthetic without losing clarity. See below:

iOS7_ui_icons

The first and third rows are the original icons, from Mail and Safari respectively. The second and fourth rows are my tweaked versions. I think my versions feel more solid and “clickable”, and have stronger silhouettes (try putting your eyes out of focus while looking at the icons).

One of my biggest gripes with these has got to be that Safari bookmarks icon. It barely looks like a book (if you use your imagination)! Mine might not follow the “only 90° curves and angles” rule but I think it’s a heck of a lot easier to read.

The Safari share button looks very little like the previous versions, and I personally find the change in direction a little jarring. While you could argue that this is just me being change averse, I think that my version of the icon is a bit better at “bridging the gap” between the iOS 6 and iOS 7 versions of the icon. And again, it feels a bit more solid.

Though we are all working with Retina displays on this iOS version, I still feel that the small display sizes of these icons should be considered more, and that using heavier versions of the icons like mine results in a clearer, more readable interface that remains clean.

What do you think?

My Thoughts on Random Access Memories

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As with most of humanity, I have been listening to a lot of Daft Punk’s new album ever since it was available for streaming over iTunes. Now that I’ve listened to it a few times, I have formulated a few opinions on it (gasp) so here they are.

At first, I was really surprised with the record. Based on the first single, Get Lucky, I was envisioning somewhat a return to the style of Discovery. I was very excited about this, since Discovery is my favourite album of theirs, but in fact Random Access Memories is not much like Discovery at all. I was a little disappointed at first, but kept listening patiently…

The truth is that this album is amazing, and as far as my ears are concerned, just keeps getting better with every listen. It’s not as danceable as Discovery, and not as thoroughly electronic as much of their previous work. There is a TON of experimentation on Random Access Memories, and while that might spell trouble for a lot of artists, Daft Punk is able to keep the quality of all the various bits and pieces at a consistently high level.

While they are incorporating a lot of diverse influences on this record, there are still enough moments of classic Daft Punk goodness. Don’t expect to dance through the whole thing, but there are some real bangers in there that will make you want to move. The softer, smoother parts of the album serve as a counterpoint and provide a great soundtrack to chill out to.

As I said, overall this is a fantastic album and I look forward to many more listens. I’ve got my copy pre-ordered on iTunes and can’t wait to get the full thing, no streaming required!

What are your thoughts on the new album?

Yet Another Useful jQuery Console Snippet

As a designer, from time to time I have to go look for stock photography on sites like iStockPhoto.

When searching, I prefer to avoid their “Exclusive” range of photos since the prices are always jacked up. You can’t eliminate these from your results, but they are indicated with a small icon. Therefore we can open up the JavaScript console in the browser Developer Tools and enter:

jQuery('.photoExclusive, .photoExclusivePlus').parents('.srItem').remove();

Just like that, it will remove all those annoyingly overpriced images from your results. Makes skimming much faster and easier, even though you have to run this on every page load.