Posts From May 2009

For an iPhone, By an iPhone

For an iPhone, By an iPhone

A new website by yours truly. It’s a gallery of iPhone wallpapers shot with my iPhone Camera.

(You can expect the nerdy details on the unique differences between designing an image-based website and a text-based one in the near future.)

Suggested Reading

Suggested reading for those still on the fence about Panic’s half-off sale, or for those who did bite the bullet and picked up some great software:

Coda: The One-Window Wonder” and “Transmit“.

Typekit

Typekit

This. Is. Huge.

The Ideal iPhone

Last summer, when iPhone 3G was announced, I took future Sean’s advice and did not upgrade.

Happily, I stuck with my 1st-generation iPhone. Most of all because of the design of the 3G’s shell and the boosted cost of AT&T’s monthly plan for 3G customers. Even in the midst of reviews and testimonies about how much the speed of 3G smokes that of EDGE, my ignorance has been bliss. And to date, I have been happy to compromise cellular network speed for the sake of a better form factor and a tighter budget.

Another reason I held out last summer was in anticipation of the 3rd generation iPhone that is now just around the corner. Leap-frogging iPhone upgrades makes sense for two reasons: First is Apple’s subscription-based accounting for iPhone sales. This means they report the income for that phone sale as spread evenly across two years (or eight quarters), and is why iPhone owners get free software upgrades. When the two years are passed, iPhone owners will (presumably) have to begin paying for software upgrades, just like iPod Touch owners.

Secondly, when you sign up for, or renew a 2-year contract with AT&T you get to pay the subsidized cost ($199 / $299) of your new iPhone. If you purchased an iPhone without signing up for a new contract, or were to upgrade while still in the middle of your current contract you would have to pay full price for the phone ($599 / $699). Meaning, if you were to buy the latest iPhone every single year, you would only be able to pay the cheaper, advertised price every-other time, with the rest of the upgrades being at full price.

All that to say, it’s been two years and there is a new phone and a new OS on the horizon.

Below is an unordered list of the features and upgrades that would either (a) bring me the most joy, or (b) relieve me of the most irritation. My ideal iPhone, if you will. Some of these were already announced at Apple’s March 17 event as part of the 3.0 OS. The rest are rumors or simply my own pipe dreams.

  • A Faster Processor and More RAM: Primarily for the sake of quicker app launching and faster web page loading. But also for the sake of less frequent “sticky keyboard” situations. John Gruber’s commentary on the processor is that the boost in speed and memory will make the phone feel more like you are switching between apps rather than quitting one and launching another. That is quite a difference indeed. Think of how quick it is to switch from one open app to another on Mac OS; it is significantly faster than launching a new app. I am so used to the 5–10 seconds of wait-time for an app to load on iPhone that I can’t imagine such a significant boost in performance. If those rumors are true, I may actually have time to call people back.
  • A Hardware Design Based on the Original Metal Shell: As mentioned earlier, I do not like the 3G’s shell. It’s not necessarily ugly, but it certainly is not as attractive as the metal-cased design of the original iPhone. Even though the 3G feels better, with its less-slippery back which contours to fit the hand, it also feels cheeper with that fingerprint-hungry plastic case. And that thicker frame around the screen really irks me. Who knows why Apple redesigned the iPhone shell. Perhaps to cut their costs, perhaps to help users keep it in their hand better (the original iPhone sure is a slippery little sucker), or perhaps it’s because of all the new 3G and GPS technology that’s in there. Interestingly, if you compare original industrial design of the iPhone to the rest of Apple’s current product line, you find many similarities. The new MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup, the new LED Cinema Displays, and the new iMacs all have designs which include a brushed aluminum shell, a glass display, and elements of black plastic… Just like the original iPhone.
  • A More Intuitive / Less Annoying Auto-Caps Feature: I don’t know how many times I’ve mistyped a password because of annoying auto-capitalization function. Although the automatic engagement of the shift button is 90% correct, the 10% time that it is not really irks me.
  • A Native Tip Calculator: Just kidding.
  • Not All Glass is Created Equal: After twelve months of use, my first iPhone still had no scratches. When that one began to act wonky during a trip to DC, a Mac Genius replaced it for me. But after less than nine months of use with this second phone, it already has a decent amount of scratches (not too bad, but bad enough in the right light). I assume this is not so much an issue related to the overall hardware design as much as it is simply the luck of the draw.
  • MMS: Not so much a feature I want, as much as it is a feature my friends want. They are dying for me to be able to take pictures of funny things and send them via text message along with witty and hilarious commentary. Apple has taken what my friends want, and added even more functionality. In addition to photos, the new messages app will support the sharing of audio, contacts, and even locations. Unfortunately, due to hardware restrictions, the MMS functionality won’t be available on the original iPhone.
  • An Easier Way to Add a New Phone Number While Talking On The Phone: On my old Motorola, if you were talking to someone on the phone and punched in a number, it would get saved automatically as a note (or something). On the iPhone, if your having a phone conversation and you need to save a number to your phone there is no easy way to go about it. If you tap the number onto the phone’s numeric keypad you’ll lose the digits once you hang up. If you type it into the Notes app, you still have to remember it in order to dial and call the number. If you want to type the new number into your phone and have it easily accessible after you hang up, then you are in for a long and awkward conversation:
    “Oh, you’ve got the number ready? Hold on, let me tap to the contacts app. OK, just a second now. Let me open a new contact. OK, now let me tap in their first name, OK, last name, OK. Let’s see… tap on ‘Mobile’… Alright. Now, what is the number? Yep. Uh-hu. OK, Great! Now wait. Just another second here. Let me save this… Aaaaaaaand, got it! Thanks. Yep. Oh, and tell your mom I said ‘hi’, too.
    This could easily be solved if the numeric keypad kept any numbers punched into it, rather than clearing them once you hang up.
  • Search and Spotlight: Not only is an in-app search function going to be added to MobileMail, Messages, Calendar, iPod, and Notes, but a system-wide search engine, called Spotlight, will be added as well. Spotlight will sit as the left-most home screen, and is marked with a clever magnafying glass icon, rather than the standard little white dot. From the Spotlight screen you can search your whole iPhone — including contacts, emails, notes, songs, videos, apps, calendar appointments, and more. A much easier way to launch an app that’s buried on screen 10, or to quickly find someone’s cell phone number to give to your friend.

Thoughts on the Additional Features (Official or Rumored) of the 3rd Generation iPhone and the 3.0 OS Which I’m Not Totally Geeking Out Over

The irony isn’t lost on me that what may be the most sought-after new features to the next generation iPhone and the 3.0 OS are also the features that I am looking forward to the least. Not to say that these aren’t great new additions that I am excited about, but I have gotten on fine without them so far.

  • Notes Sync: In theory I love the idea of being able to sync notes with my laptop, but in reality, how helpful will it actually be? I am curious what app in OS X the notes will show up in? Will they sync as rich text files into a pre-designated folder? as some sort of message in Mail, alongside to-do items and RSS feeds? or something else altogether? And what about people running Windows? My guess is that synced notes will show up in the iTunes library alongside Music, Movies, Applications, etc. But if so, will they be editable? Because right now the content in the iTunes library is read only.
  • A Video-Capable Camera: Considering that I am just now regularly taking pictures with my iPhone, a video camera doesn’t fully light me up.
  • Cut, Copy, and Paste: Though I have no doubt that once in use I will wonder how I ever lived without it, this unordered-list mention is already more thought than I’ve given to the feature in the past two years.
  • The Landscape Mode and Keyboard in Primary Apps: In addition to MobileSafari, the ability to read and type text in landscape mode will be added to MobileMail, Notes, and the Messages App. In just a short amount of time we will be putting our previous type-speed tests to shame, and wondering how we ever lived with just the portrait-mode keyboard for so long.
  • More Storage: Without trying, my 8GB iPhone currently has just barely over 7GB worth of music, photos and apps. My point being, I’m not dying for more storage. However, a bigger hard drive will certainly be a welcomed addition when it comes to voice memos and (rumored) video recording capabilities.

Still Amazing

It is notable that after two entire years on the open market, iPhone continues to be, by far, the most advanced, responsive and beautiful mobile touch-screen device and software available. It is one thing for iPhone and iPhone OS to have been as ground-breaking and incredible as they were in 2007 when they debuted. But to still have that edge two years later? That’s amazing.

The Panic Three-Day Sale

The Panic Three-Day Sale

Coda, Transmit, CandyBar and Unison. All amazing apps for the Mac, and all for sale at half-price until Friday night.

Josephine

Two years ago this afternoon, my Grandma Blanc passed away.

Josephine was 94 years old when she died. My 98-year-old grandpa, Louie, was there by her side, grieving at the loss of his life-long love, but deeply grateful that he was able to be with her all the way to the end.

Her funeral was a few days later. Over 200 people came from our small town of Castle Rock, Colorado to celebrate, laugh, and cry with us as we shared stories about my grandmother.

When Josephine was just 11 years old, her mom died giving birth to her younger sister. Four years later her father left them during the great depression, leaving my 15-year-old grandmother to take care of all her siblings. She always said it was the power of positive thinking and prayer that kept her going; she took charge and never looked back — raising a legacy and a very tight-nit family.

At the funeral, as we read through her memoirs, we came across her “values” — the things she tried to live by. They were short phrases: Be the first to say hello; Compliment three people every day; Live beneath your means; Let the first thing you say brighten everyone’s day; Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today; Always think the best of other people.

As I heard them, I realized just how much her prayers and her positive thinking really had influenced and affected our entire family. She was an amazing woman.

Just Say ‘No’

Just Say ‘No’

Great advice from Seth Godin for all the kind, humble, highly talented people out there.

Michael Tyznik’s U.S. Dollar Redesign Submission

Michael Tyznik’s U.S. Dollar Redesign Submission

Richard Smith is hosting a “Dollar ReDe$ign Project” on his weblog, Think Creative. There are a handful of design submissions already (Flickr group), and Michael’s designs are by far the most beautiful. Reading Michael’s rationale behind his designs makes them even more compelling — if it was real cash, I certainly wouldn’t mind having a wad of these bills in my wallet.

Galaxy Trucker

Galaxy Trucker

When my wife’s family gets together all we do is play games. And last week while visiting in San Antionio for my brother-in-law’s graduation we learned a new one: Galaxy Trucker. Galaxy Trucker really hits it off with nerdy board gamers who enjoy Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan.

Not only is the game-play extremely addicting, even the instruction booklet had us all laughing until it hurt as we learned the game for the first time. But, as it goes for nearly every game, it’s impossible to describe without finally resorting to, “you just have to play it.”

A Broad Array of iPhone Keyboards

iPhone keyboard layouts come in threes.

Regardless of where you are entering text, there are almost always three different keyboards available to you. Each one with unique characters. But not all these keyboards are created equal — their contents and design usually change based on the type of the input field you are entering text into.

The three basic classifications of keyboards are:

  • The “ABC” Keyboard: The first keyboard you’re presented with when the keyboard slides up. You can only toggle to the “123” keyboard from here.
  • The “123” Keyboard: Contains numbers and common characters, and can be toggled to via the ABC keyboard.
  • The “#+=” or “@123″ or other Keyboard: Contains additional, and less-common characters not found on the “123” keyboard, and sometimes contains numbers as well. It can only be toggled to via the “123” keyboard, but from here you can toggle back to the “123” or the “ABC” keyboard.

Depending on which type of input field you are entering text into — and which app that input field is in — the contents, and in some cases even the design, of the three keyboard layouts vary compared to another type of input field.

Most of the iPhone keyboards are very similar in their layout and contents, with only slight changes to their design or contents for the sake of the input field’s context. Added up, there are 12 unique keyboard layouts.1

Additionally there is the landscape keyboard, which is currently available only in Mobile Safari.2 The landscape keyboard has the same character placements as the vertical keyboard in Mobile Safari, but is 160 pixels wider since the phone has to be held sideways to use it. Meaing, its contents are the same, but its design is different (wider).

Adding in these six unique layouts of the landscape keyboard, iPhone has 18 unique keyboards as part of its native OS.

Below is a small and brief chart of the 9 most common keyboards. Click on the image for a full-size PDF of all 18 keyboards.

There are 18 unique keyboard layouts in iPhone OS 2.1.2


  1. Since the iPhone SDK allows for some customization of the keyboard, there are 3rd-party apps that use customized keyboards.
  2. iPhone OS 3.0 anticipates adding the landscape keyboard to additional apps, such as Mail and Notes.

Two Things Updated: One For the Mac, and One For iPhone

Two Things Updated: One For the Mac, and One For iPhone

Cultured Code releases versions 1.1.2 and 1.3.5 respectively.

Part of the update to the desktop version includes an even better way of working with delegated tasks. Just because something isn’t broke, doesn’t mean it can’t be made better.

Behind the Scenes of Fusion Ads

Behind the Scenes of Fusion Ads

Chris Bowler gives a tour of the who, what, and why of Fusion.

Nerds Vs. Celebs

Nerds Vs. Celebs

Twitter’s top 10 in 2007 compared to its top 10 now.

(Via @gedeon)

A Brief Comparison of Font and Background Colors Rendered Across Major Browsers in Mac OS X

There is an unfortunate side-effect to Websites that sport light text on a dark backgrounds: in general, the light-on-dark font appears as more bold than its dark-on-light counterpart.

The truth is, it is not actually more bold (in terms of the actual number of pixels that make up the stroke width), it simply appears more bold due to the anti-aliasing of the font by the browser and operating system.

It is easy to notice Web fonts rendering differently on different operating systems. But, fonts also render differently in different browsers, even within the same operating system.

There are three things I want to look at regarding font and background coloring, and how it renders in various browsers in Mac OS X.

First of all, we’ll compare the way dark text on a light background looks in a browser next to light text on a dark background in the same browser. Secondly, we’ll compare the rendering (anti-aliasing) of the text in various rendering engines. And finally, for fun, we’ll look at the un-expected differences in kerning.

Color Comparisons

The screenshots below are taken from each of the major Web browsers for Mac OS X.1 Firefox and Camino both use Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine, Safari uses Webkit, and Opera uses Presto.

On the left side the background color is #a0a08b, and the font color is #393831. The right side is the flip-flopped style of that — background: #393831; color: #a0a08b; — and is the same styling as this website. The large, serif font is 16px Times New Roman (this site’s h1 tag) and the smaller sans-serif is 11px Lucida Grande (this site’s default body font).

Safari 4 Public Beta

Safari 4: Screenshot of Reversed Colors

Firefox 3.0.6

Firefox 3: Screenshot of Reversed Colors

Camino 1.6.7

Camino: Screenshot of Reversed Colors

Opera 9.64

Opera 9: Screenshot of Reversed Colors

At first glance, it is easy to spot how the dark text on light background appears less bold than the light text on the dark background. Especially in Times New Roman. Regardless of which browser is rendering the font, comparing and contrasting the stroke of the letters between light and dark you can see how the dark letters on the light background appear thinner, sharper, and better rendered.

Also worth noting before moving on is that the two Gecko-run browsers (Firefox and Camino) render both the light text on dark and the dark text on light thinner than Safari or Opera do.

The main contributing factor to a font appearing as more or less bold is the color of the pixels that make up the stroke width. You’ll notice in the screenshots below, that the stroke for the leg of the “H” set in Times New Roman is five pixels wide. You have to look closely to count all five pixels of the H set on a light background, whereas you can easily see the five pixels of the light H on the dark background.

Browser-Specific Display of Pixel Colors Within the Stroke

As visible from the previous screenshots, when it comes to stroke width, the four browsers end up boiling down into two: Safari and Firefox.

Since Safari and Opera rendered identicaly in this comparison, I removed Opera. Firefox and Camino both use Gecko and they render identical to one another, so I removed Camino. This is convenient for the comparisons, because Safari and Firefox are the two most common browsers used in Mac OS X.

When looking at the below letters zoomed in, not only does it become clear as to why one color combination appears thinner than another, but it is fascinating to study the pixel-by-pixel differences between the colors and the strokes.

For example, compare how the Times New Roman “H” renders on the dark-background in Safari versus Firefox. In Safari, there is one pixel of space between the inside of the top and bottom serifs. However, in Firefox, they actually — though barely — touch.

Safari vs Firefox Rendering of Times New Roman at 1,100% (The cyan dots mark the pixel grid)

Safari 4 Beta

font: Times New Roman;
background: #a0a08b;
color: #393831;
Times New Roman: dark text on a light background

Safari 4 Beta

font: Times New Roman;
background: #393831;
color: #a0a08b;
Times New Roman: light text on a dark background

Firefox 3

font: Times New Roman;
background: #a0a08b;
color: #393831;
Firefox: dark text on a light background

Firefox 3

font: Times New Roman;
background: #393831;
color: #a0a08b;
Firefox: light text on a dark background

Safari vs Firefox Rendering of Lucida Grande at 2,250% (Again, The cyan dots mark the pixel grid)

Similar to the H set in Times New Roman, you can easily see how the anti-aliasing of this H set in Lucida Grande differs in contrast depending on the color it is placed on.

Safari 4 Beta

font: Lucida Grande;
background: #a0a08b;
color: #393831;
Safari: dark text on a light background

Safari 4 Beta

font: Lucida Grande;
background: #393831;
color: #a0a08b;
Safari: light text on a dark background

Firefox 3

font: Lucida Grande;
background: #a0a08b;
color: #393831;
Firefox: dark text on a light background

Firefox 3

font: Lucida Grande;
background: #393831;
color: #a0a08b;
Firefox: light text on a dark background

Kerning

A final point of nerdery: beyond anti-aliasing differences, each browser also has its own opinion for kerning as well.

It is most noticeable between the “W” and the “o” in “World” for the font Times New Roman:

Safari, Camino, and Opera

X-Height = 13px
Kerning = 4px W and O kerning in Safari

Firefox 3

X-height = 13px
Kerning = 1px W and O kerning in Firefix

And the Point is?

Not only does anti-aliasing vary based on operating systems, monitors and which fonts you’re rendering, it also can change based on the rendering engine of the browser you’re using to view the Web page. But, in general, RGB anti-aliasing of dark fonts on light backgrounds appear as more crisp than for light fonts on dark backgrounds.


  1. Originally I included screenshots from Safari 3 and Firefox 2, since they are still in wide circulation. But they rendered identical to their more-recent-version counterparts, and there comes a point where “thorough” crosses the line and becomes “too much information”.