Five days with my Apple Watch

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Five random thoughts:

1. the fact that you can check the time on this thing is as important as the fact that you can make phone calls with the other thing. While it defines their names (Apple Watch, iPhone), the really interesting parts are completely elsewhere.

2. while making my first phone call holding my watch to my face I realised that it’s not really a novelty: we used to do this all the time when we were kids. It’s just that now it works. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing (in any case, I would not do it in public).

3. the wrist movement I make when stabbing a piece of food with my fork is the same I make when checking the time. I think that eating using cutlery significantly reduces battery life.

4. it creates a whole new level of awareness. Because I can glance at notifications all the time, I do feel like I’m more in the flow. The absence of notification sounds (I muted it, I love its gentle tapping) and the fact that once you glance there isn’t much more you can do, makes it less distracting.

5. I do keep track of my physical activity monitors all the time. When Apple introduced Garage Band I picked up playing an instrument again. I wonder if the Apple Watch will get me to move a bit more.

3 things about Apple Watch

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One

I think that the heart rate sensor is the most relevant feature of this product. It’s not just about fitness: with the right software having a constant monitor of heart rate and other activities will soon start saving lives. In a few years this class of products will have an impact on the healthcare budgets. It’s big.

Two

Remember iPhone 1.0? iPod 1.0? iPad 1.0? Holding my first iphone today, it looks and feels like ancient technology. The current Apple Watch looks a bit chunky, but in no time it will become much sleeker. This is a 1.0.

Three

Is it “Apple WATCH”? ALL CAPITALS? REALLY?

Automatic photostream

Here’s a great story about finding yourself in somebody else’s photos.

Today Facebook has access to my timeline on Moves (which they bought), which means that potentially they know where/when I was for the last six month with a good degree of precision. 

They also have access to billions of geotagged photos. Cross referencing this information Facebook could easily generate a timeline of photos taken around me. And this is with today’s technology.

There all all kind of privacy issues to discuss, yet there are quite exciting possibilities with photography. Just ahead.

Life after Aperture

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It has been quite evident for a while that Apple had little love left for Aperture, but now it’s official: the photo editing software will be retired.

I’m sure that Photos, Apple’s new photo management app, will be nice and perfectly integrated in Apple’s ecosystem, but most likely it won’t have the kind of professional tools I need.

Which leaves me with just one possibility: move to Adobe Lightroom.

I have many friends who love Lightroom, and recently I have given up and started paying for Adobe’s subscription plan, so technically I already have Lightroom installed on my Mac.

But unless I’m missing something, once I will have moved all my photo archive to Lightroom I will have to keep paying a ransom to Adobe every month just to be able to access my photos, on my computer.

Yes, I appreciate that all my files are there, but there’s a whole lotta metadata and work associated with those files which depends on Lightroom and will be lost if I don’t pay the monthly fee.

The future of our digital photos is something we should start paying much more attention to. Right now it doesn’t look very bright.

PS: as some commenters pointed out, there is an option to buy Lightroom as a standalone application which I had not been able to find. This makes the whole migration option much more likely to happen soon. Thank you all 🙂

30 years later

On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.”

It must have taken a few weeks after that famous January 24th before my dad came home from an Apple resellers meeting with a big white box with a colorful logo.

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The first Macintosh of my life was installed in our living room, with a plaid to protect the polished mahogany table. The mouse. The graphic UI. MacPaint. It was love at first sight.

Since then I have used a Mac pretty much every day. I cannot think of any other piece of technology that I have used so much and for so long, and that has had so much influence on my life.

I have used a lot of Macs.

At the beginning it was the 128K. Then the 512K. Then it was the Plus. The first hard disks (what will we ever do with 10Mb of storage?). And the internal ones, which as soon as summer arrived started overheating.

The Macintosh II had colors, the SE/30 was quick, the IIfx was sooo powerful! I worked for years doing graphic animation on a IIfx.

When we started working together, the first Mac Monica and I bought was a Quadra 700. And a LaserWriter 12/640 which lasted for almost 20 years.

There were some dark times. System 7. The Power Macintosh 8500. Some friends moved to Windows. I stubbornly stuck with my Mac. I even bought a 20 anniversary Macintosh.

Then the light again (Jobs was back) with the colored iMacs, the translucent G3 desktop. And the beautiful G4 Cube.

And all the laptops. Starting with the fantastic PowerBook 100, which was simply amazingly small. And then the sophisticated, black and cool Lombard and Pismo. And the first G4 Titanium. Can you imagine? Titanium!

And then all the Aluminium MacBooks, and the incredible light Air, and… it’s today.

Thanks for the ride Apple. And what a ride!

Multi language stream using Facebook Lists

I have been playing with lists on Facebook lately. Initially I considered them reading lists (a way to aggregate stuff from a selected several sources in the same page), and they are, but you can use them also as distribution lists, and this is much more interesting. Thanks to lists I think I have solved one of my long-standing problems on Facebook: multiple languages.

Facebook - Create List

I don’t have a huge number of  friends on Facebook, I have tried to keep my social graph consistent, and while I cannot say I know personally every single contact I have, I can say in most cases I’m connected to people I know of. Overall I’m pretty happy with the content I find on my Facebook page, my real problem is posting: considering that about 20% of my connections are not Italian, which language should I use?

My solution so far had always been posting everything in English (wrongly assuming that all my Italian contacts can read some basic English). This approach kinda works as long as I’m posting original content, but it did prevent me from re-posting all the interesting stuff I found in my stream which is in Italian. And with 80% of my contacts being Italian it’s a lot of stuff.

So I finally decided to go through all my contacts and manually create a list of my Italian friends, so now I can easily post in Italian for my Italian friends and in English for everyone else.

The UI to do this could be much easier, and probably Facebook could be doing this automagically, but still, it’s a nice step forward.

Google: a lousy evil empire?

I’m a fan of every conspiracy theory as any other geek, but this whole narrative about google gaining control our whole life has a big flaw: Google Plus.

I mean: I have 4 active email addresses that I use every day, and they are all on gmail. I use google for every search, google maps, google calendar, google docs both on my Mac and my mobile devices. I use Chrome for most of the time when I’m on my Mac. And then they shut down the aggregator I was using, they force me to have a G+ account to comment on YouTube, in other words the pretty much have full control of my digital life, and still…

…they haven’t managed to get me interested to Google Plus. Nor any other of my friends, who in most cases have pretty much sold their own souls to Google like I did.

Now, I’m not saying that they are not evil… but surely so far it doesn’t look like they are very good at using all the power we gave them in order to control us.

Games of Drones

So, with PrimeAir Amazon is planning to deliver goods to our doorstep using drones in 2015.

By 2018, PrimeAir will reach us wherever we are, even walking down a street. In 2020 GoogleMaps RealTime will be deployed in major cities, and Facebook extensive network of drones will keep track of our friends like it never happened before.

A tiny blue Twitter drone will flutter a few feet behind us, giving a whole new meaning to the term “follower”. Some of us will deploy personal WordPress drones, which we will be able to customize with all kind of widgets.

I’m not sure about Apple drones… But you can bet that they will be über cool, and everybody will want one.

Here’s why I unfriended you

Recently you posted something along the lines of:

“those who post about food/cats/running/kids/… must have some kind of problem”

Now, I get it: it’s a kinda funny cheap shot, and yes, your post did collect a bunch of likes by some other looser.

But, to answer your question, I actually enjoy pretty much what my friends post on Facebook. I like their food and cats pictures, and I post plenty of those myself. I secretly envy every run they make in the park and every time the blaze through the city on their bicycles. I enjoy keeping up with their life. There’s people I have hardly every met, yet I’m keeping up with their adventures day by day. And quite often I learn something from them.

Whenever I get bored with the content that somebody posts I just hide it, or unsubscribe. It would probably be a little less shocking if they would call it unsubscribe instead of unfriend.

But my point is: you are entirely responsible for what appears in your stream on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network out there. If you don’t like it, change it, don’t bitch about it.

I don’t like people bitching about it. Here’s why I unfriended you.

Future of cars

This nice video shows the future of cars. Of course, the other part of this future is going to be self driving cars. So we will be able to play with all the dashboard toys while the car will drive itself, no way you can do both at the same time. [via Manteblog]

PS: well… maybe you can play with the 17″ screen while the car is recharging  😉

Email = Publishing

While reading about Groklaw shutting down, Lavabit and Silent Circle cancelling their secure email services, I was thinking that we should all stop thinking about email as a private correspondence tool.

To be honest anyone who had ever been exposed to the inner working of email servers has always known that unencrypted email is not really private. The fact that a majority of users has always been under the impression that there was some significant level of privacy might very well be part of a general scheme to have access to their private information.

Maybe it’s time to change the way people think about email, and start considering it a publishing medium. After all since the beginning email has been used to publish stuff, mail lists predate the web by several years.

Whenever we send an email message we are in all effects publishing a message (i.e. making it public). It might not be immediately accessible to everyone, and by adding some addresses to the “to” field we might even have a some degree of control on who will be reading the message first, but that’s about it.

Maybe once a majority of people will start considering all email public, there will be an improvement in the quality of what lands in our mailboxes.

With the email problem solved, all we have to do now is finding another communication tool designed to be truly private.

New google maps font problems

I’m a huge fan of maps, so I was eager to experiment with the new version of Google Maps. I did for a while, I don’t like it. Mostly it’s because I can’t easily access some of my favorite features (such as shortened URL to share a map, or terrain view).

But the worst problem is that at many zoom levels I could not read street names like in the old version. After some digging and experiments I got to this totally useless point (using the latest version of Chrome).

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Instagram bots

When I started using the excellent app from vsco to edit photos on my iPhone, I noticed that my posts on Instagram were liked by a significantly larger number of users, usually by people I don’t know.

IMG_3051The thing is that these likes were appearing a little too automatically, and a little too soon after the image was uploaded. I also tried uploading a black square, and I still got a couple of likes within seconds.

After some digging, it turns out that there’s a whole bunch of Instagram bots out there, that users can set up to automatically like images tagged with popular tags (and clearly #vsco is one of them). The theory is that randomly liking images will get you more followers. Given the number of followers that these people have, it might also be true.

While it looks like nobody is hurting anybody in this game, it’s yet another example of stupid behaviour triggered by the quantitive approach to social media.

Fixing things

At 5am of Monday morning, the heart (compressor) of our beloved refrigerator ceased to beat. What a sad moment! The poor thing was shorted, just plugging it in the wall socket would trigger the circuit breaker.

We moved all the frozen stuff to my parents’ refrigerator (luckily they live next door), we called the official REX/Electrolux service number, and started waiting for the repairmen.

He couldn’t come on Monday, showed up on Tuesday. Stated that the compressor was bust, and needed to be replaced. The problem is that our refrigerator is the largest he has ever seen (!), and that who knows if they can find a replacement (!!), and that the cost of the operation will be at least 250 Euros (sigh).

We waited Tuesday afternoon, and then all day Wednesday, no visit, no call.

Quite desperate in the evening I decided to apply my engineering experience to the problem… and just plugged it back in the wall. Instead of leaving us in the dark, it started purring again.

So yes, turning stuff off and then back works with refrigerators. Just wait 24 hours.

PS: the refrigerator has not been this clean since we got it 😉

Word processing in 2013

This morning I played a little with Quip, a “modern word processor that enables you to create beautiful documents on any device — phones, tablets and the desktop”.

I installed the app on my iPad and used it in a browser on my mac. I appreciate that this is only the very first version, that 1.0 is the loneliest number, and all that… but I still found it disappointing.

Introducing his new product on the company blog, Bret Taylor used a screenshot of the first MacWrite, which I happen to have here at hand because it’s the same I use for each and every rant about “modern” word processing. Here it is:

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Now, you will notice that right next to the expanded “Style” menu, there is a “Font” menu. In 1984 that menu allowed you to choose from a limited number of font faces. For some reason at Quip they decided that in 2013 all this font frenzy needed to stop, that we didn’t need to change font, so all documents have the one and same font (as far as I could find).

Yes, Quip has nice collaboration tools, so far I don’t think that they are good enough to convince me to move my writing to this new platform. But I will definitely keep an eye on this app, it does look like they are onto something.

The truth is that I don’t have a solution for my word processing problems.

I like using Apple Pages for my documents, because it has a set of very simple and precise layout features, and because, at least in my world, documents still need to be printed in many cases (and I come from a design background, so I actually like typography and layouts).

As long as I’m on my own, Pages is great. If I’m working with a colleague who also has Pages, then collaboration is done via Dropbox sharing. Yes, there might be some issues overwriting the document from time to time, but the quality of the final document still tends to be very good.

In cases where I need to collaborate with non Pages users, I end up exporting the document to Word (and loosing some of the nice formatting), or creating a shared document on Google Docs (loosing pretty much all the nice formatting).

From time to time the real-time collaborative editing offered by Google is nice, but honestly I don’t need it that often.

And then there is Fargo. I love outlines, and the whole concept of storing files in my own Dropbox account is absolutely brilliant. So far, collaboration with Fargo can be tricky (but it’s much better than when I had to convince people to download and install applications on their PC), and I haven’t figured out a way to move an outline to a word processor in order to create a page layout when necessary.

The truth is that most of these tools don’t interoperate. They all have their formats, and quite often the only way out is cutting and pasting: not exactly the most efficient way of doing it.

And while many applications are starting to support real time collaboration, I’m still waiting to see applications smart enough to understand what I’m writing and help me out by finding relevant documents (both in my own archives and on the interwebs), images, data, etc. I think that the technology is there, someone just has to figure it out.

I guess that what I would really like is writing in a Fargo outline, with Quip collaboration tools, and be able to export a structured file to a Pages document for some final formatting touches.

It looks like there’s still plenty of room for improvement in word processing.

What happened to “camera phones”?

My father in law wants to upgrade his mobile phone (he has a simple and cheap Nokia phone which is a few years old).

He went to an electronics store, and they sold him a 150 Euros Samsung smart phone.

Of course, he got home and had no clue whatsoever on how to use it, connect it to his Mac to download photos (or even answer a phone call).

So he came visiting with pizzas and beer, and I tried to figure it out. I could not.

I will admit that it was my first time with Android, and it probably was a pretty old version of Android but… what an utterly piece of crap!

The UI is totally confusing, and the very poor Italian localisation doesn’t help. I had to google (on my iPhone) to find even the simplest commands (for example: why is USB configuration in the “Networking” panel?). And even after one hour, I could not get it to download photos when connected with the USB cable (iPhoto would “see” the phone, but there were no images to download).

And once configured with the gmail account, suddenly there were notifications in three different apps: email, gmail and social hub. Why?

For his sanity (and mine), I convinced him to take it back and ask for his money back.

Of course, now I have to find a simple phone with three features: calls, SMS and a decent camera. The less smart, the better. Nokia used to make phones with pretty good cameras, but now good cameras only seem to be available on the Lumia series.

Any recommendations?

Tags and feeds

I love tags and feeds.

For the last 15 years almost every technology project I have been involved with was somehow related to tags and feeds (I started with feeds in 1998, then added tags sometime in 2001).

loveRssThe fact is that a feed aggregator is an incredibly powerful concept, and that using tags to organize and create views in aggregated contents is a great way of managing information. There are many tools you can use to create feeds. There are not that many that allow you to manage feeds, that’s why I find aggregators interesting, especially when used to power a content management system.

I’m now working on my 3rd aggregator, hoping to avoid the mistakes of the past and trying to make brand new mistakes which will teach us something. It looks like it’s the right time: with GReader closing down people are talking about feeds again, and tags seem to be back on the map too (with still a few pretty big issues to solve).

And there might even be a little conference on RSS!

I love tags and feeds.

Dilbert feed broken

Too many years ago to count, the company I worked with developed a Radio UserLand plug-in to scrape web sites and generate RSS feed. One of the first filters that we developed was the one for Dilbert.com, which back then was not offering RSS feeds yet.

Some time later they started publishing the official feed, and I have been a happy subscriber ever since. Until last week, when they broke it. Instead of my daily strip, now every day this is what I get in my aggregator:

Dilbert readers – Please visit Dilbert.com to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to Dilbert.com.

Now, I’m not a “full content in your feed” fundamentalist, but if all your content is a comics strip, you can’t get away just linking it.

My guess is that this is another effect of Google Reader closing: the number of feed subscribers must have dropped significantly, and they decided that whoever was left was not relevant enough. They must have thought: “At least let’s get their lazy eyeballs back on our site so they can be exposed to our fantastic banners and we increase our page views”

It looks like it’s time to go back to scrapers.

PS: I’m sure that this move also broke hundreds of intranet home pages that were adding some color to otherwise boring sites using that feed.

The River Tab

Dave Winer today writes:

I’ve felt for a long time that every serious news organization and blog should have a river associated with their publication. The river would include the news sources that the publication “reads” — to give their readers a sense of the community they both belong to and the community they define.

It’s a simple yet incredibly powerful concept. As with all new concepts it will receive endless push backs (I’m seeing some incredible resistance to the concept of publishing content aggregated from feeds from all kind of organizations) but then it will be broadly adopted.

Our new tool is designed specifically to manage original and aggregated content. Not even in two tabs but on the very same page. Ours is not a river (also if you could easily create a river just by not filtering feeds), but the underlying concept is quite similar: share a unique view on your world by publishing a list of feeds that are relevant to you.

CQSpark.NEWS: Aggregator based CMS

When demoing our enterprise collaboration tool, CQSpark, very often I’m asked if some of the pages built with our WYSIWYG tool using the aggregated content can be made public.

This lead us to consider building a version of the platform specifically designed to manage simple sites based on a mix of aggregated content (automatically tagged using Open Calais and/or AlchemyAPI), and original content posted by one or more editors.

So, here’s the first test site built using this new version of our technology, which we are calling CQSpark.NEWS: paolo.cqspark.com

The content of the two columns of the right has been aggregated from a list of feeds that I extracted from my aggregator, while the left column articles have been posted directly on the page using a very simple tool. This is how I see the page as an editor of the site:

The system is using CQSpark’s super easy to use sharing box, which is optimized to scrape/embed articles, videos, tweets, it supports drag and drop publishing of photos and files, and with one click also allows you to cross-post to your accounts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

I’ve always thought that aggregators a formidable tool not only to create personal streams of content but also to run public sites, with this new tool I think we have reached an excellent combination of ease of use and power.

Little boxes indeed

Euan writes:

I have been writing text in little boxes on the interwebs for twenty years. Used to be called usenet, then bulletin boards, then blogs, now social. Still little boxes.

The tools we use to write have been pretty much the same for a very long time. Sometime in early 1984 my dad came home with the first Mac 128. It came with two floppy disks, each with the whole operating system and an application on it: one for MacPaint, one for MacWrite.

MacPaint was my favorite, but I remember MacWrite well, here’s what it looked like:

Now, what I find odd is that some 28 years later I’m still writing in a box which pretty much offers the very same features (actually I have lost tabulation).

Why haven’t writing tools evolved? Why are not relevant content from the interwebs popping up while I write this, helping me finding more information in real-time? Why isn’t this post appearing in real time on Euan’s screen, while I’m writing it, allowing us to develop a conversation? Why aren’t previous rants I wrote about how technology has not evolved enough for me automatically linked to this post?

There are ways to do all this, but they are far from being mainstream.

PS: true, there are outlines.

Hope for Flickr?

For the first few days the news about Marissa Mayer becoming the CEO of Yahoo was good but not that interesting to me: I’m not using any Yahoo product.

And then I remembered: Flickr!

I have always liked the service, and I have years of pictures uploaded there. I still prefer to upload a photo to Flickr rather than Facebook (well… I do upload stuff to Instagram too, but that’s another story).

I have all my food porn photos on Flickr, and I love paging through years of archives in calendar form.

I was ready to give up, and not renew my pro account next December. But now who knows… maybe there’s hope for Flickr. (Or maybe Marissa will shut it down).

PS: it looks like I’m not alone. And someone is listening.

Start from sharing

Last week Euan Semple wrote an interesting post about his experience working with managers in companies:

Working, as I do, mostly with managers in their forties and fifties I would say that 90% are unsure of themselves online. Yes they are on Facebook and Linkedin, and some of them have Twitter accounts, but their use of these tools is predominantly passive. They are consuming rather than creating stories.

I think that the pressure that these managers feel is mostly due to the nature of today’s blogging style: while when I started 10 years ago blogs were mostly lists of links with short notes, today blogs are almost always collections of short essays. Like this one. And usually, with no links.

Luca De Biase recently wrote “nobody is linking anymore… the blogosphere is turning into a newsstand where everybody is pushing their own newspaper, not understanding that when alone they are weaker”.

In a corporate environment we should rediscover links as a way to narrate the world and enhance our point of view. That’s why we have designed CQSpark trying to make linking and sharing as easy as possible. You can post original content if you want to, but most of all you can share your unique perspective on the enormous amount of data which is flowing in front of all of us every day. In other words: you post links.

Let the people play

Euan Semple:

Let people waste time with social tools. Don’t ban them or bury them in rules. Encourage people to play and discover how they work.

When they get bored they’ll start to do real work in a way you never imagined possible.

Going to the rivers

1. Read Dave Winer on Rivers of News

2. Read Doc Searls on Rivers of News

I don’t know how many times I have had this discussion on rivers of news with clients in the publishing business. I don’t think that I have ever been able to convince them, especially journalists, to go with a river approach of just displaying posts with a simple reverse chronologically order.

Because they want control. They want to decide what goes at the top of the page. They truly and deeply believe that the home page of a site is sacred ground where they can unleash all their editorial power.

The fun fact is that more and more they are seeing these precious home pages (at least from the advertising point of view) being skipped altogether by users who find deep links on social networks…

…all of which display posts in what is in all effects a “river” format. 😉

Birthdays are good for your klout

Not that I have ever taken my Klout rating seriously, but from time to time I do check it and a few days ago I was puzzled to find these results:

The only explanation I could think of is that last week a bunch of people posted on my FB wall on my birthday.

This is serious stuff, uh?

Google Drive: a dead-end.

I have installed Google Drive this morning, hoping that we could use it as an alternative to Dropbox for an upcoming product we’re working on.

The need is simple: let users publish an RSS feed.

From a first analysis (I hope I’m wrong), it looks like even if I make an item in my Google Drive public, it doesn’t have a permanent URL, which means that it’s impossible to subscribe to it.

Now: companies have not been understanding links for all the story of the Internet, but you would expect that Google of all big and stupid companies would be the one able understand the value of permanent URL and how this empowers others to build things, layer after layer. The fact that you can’t easily link to an object in your Google Drive so that another piece of software (and not a browser) could read it makes this service a dead-end.

Btw: this is exactly the contrary of being open.

Rant #2

I love Skype. It’s probably the application I use most, if it wasn’t for Skype my company could not exist in the form it has today, spread across 4 countries (we are a mini-multinational).

When conferencing with multiple parties, the first 5 minutes of every call can be used in one of these two ways:

1. everybody is commenting how wonderful modern technology is and how amazing it is that we can see and hear each other across the world;

2. one of more parties repeat a hundred times “can you hear me?” and “no, I cannot hear you!”

I hate calls of the second kind.

Another bloated apps rant

About 20 minutes ago I decided to do a little job which involved choosing a photo I took last week and use it to create a banner for a client’s site. The mission required to start Aperture, select a project, right click on a photo, open it with Photoshop.

20 minutes later, I’m still waiting to be able to edit the picture with PS. Both Aperture and Photoshop (CS6) are wedged. Mine might not be the freshest of MacBook Pros, but it still has a 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Due processor and 8GB of Ram, most of which is available.

Can’t really say why this is taking so long, but with every new version these apps seem to be slower and to use resources less efficiently.

Okay… it looks like I can finally edit my photo. 23 minutes. Not even in 1988…

Maps

These maps from Stamen are seriously cool. (via Daring Fireball)

For example, this is Gorizia:

I have played with OpenStreetMap lately, and it has significantly improved since I had last checked it a few years ago. The fact that any map can be exported as a pdf file, and that you can fix details on the map is making it much more useful than Google Maps for some of my projects.

360 Panorama: highly recommended

I have really been enjoying 360 Panorama lately. If you don’t know already, it’s an iOS/Android application that lets you take panoramic images very easily. Yesterday for example, while cutting a corner trough Hampstead Heath, I took this:

It’s pretty cool to see it embedded, but it’s absolutely awesome if you open this link on your iPhone and you click on the “gyroscope” icon: http://360.io/B5T3K5.

At that point just hold your phone in front of you and turn around, and you will experience the panorama in a completely different way.

Now I could tell you the story of the early QuickTime VR shots, using cameras, tripods with custom-built mounts, actual film, Philips PhotoCD, and controlling the stitching application via command line in MPW. But I won’t.

State of the Net 2012

So it’s official: there will be another State of the Net Conference in June.

I’m very happy about this, the 2008 edition was a huge success, but the following years we had not been able to find the resources to run it again, then we all had our other priorities and crises, and we did not organise it anymore.

This year, mostly thanks to Beniamino’s endless energy, we’ll do it again.

I think that this is a good time for another Sotn, there are just too many things that need to be thought again, and even if we have just started putting the agenda together, we can already see that it will be a very interesting event. How could it be any different? We have great partners, sponsors, and the most beautiful location in the most beautiful city at the end of June.

How can you possibly not come? See you all in Trieste.

Graphic design and the web

There seem to be several conversations about graphic design and the web (and apps) these days. The argument is usually “good ol’ simple html” vs. “sleek yet bloated pages”.

I come from the design camp.

When I started working in the late ’80s it was the early days of desk top publishing. Apple had just introduced the Macintosh and most of all the first Laser Writer. Suddenly everybody with a Mac could use 14 font families. And many were using all 14 of them. On the same page.

But then real designers started using this amazing technology, and for a few years we all had fun.

Then the web came about, and we were forced give everything up.

The advantages of the web were so huge that we just had to live with very limited design capabilities. Only a handful of fonts. Layouts impossible to experience in the same way across different browsers and operating systems. Crazily nested tables to try to get a bit of information where we wanted on a page. It was ugly, but it was beautiful.

15 years later we are experiencing again the possibility of doing beautiful design, this time on the web.

I think that we are again in an “all fonts on the same page” period. It’s exhilarating, and it will take a little while before real design will start happening again.

And it will be beautiful.

Privacy

I’m not incredibly concerned about some apps sucking out my address book. After all I do have some degree of control on that.

Yet I am a bit annoyed about my own address being posted all over the place by thousands of people and their apps.

In other words: I can stop using Path today (I won’t), but my address will continue to be posted to hundreds of different sites every day without any control. The moment you give any piece of information to somebody with a smartphone, that piece of information is no longer private. End of story.

Video, now and then.

Warning: this is one of those “amazing what you can do with technology these days” kind of post.

When I was a teenager I used to hang around in a friend’s shop selling video equipment. This is where I used a video camera for the first time. It was something like this:

It was the most incredible piece of technology! It had a tiny black and white monitor, and you could see the world in this little TV, in real-time. It’s probably impossible to understand today how exciting it was back then.

After shooting there was editing. Not all consumer VCR could edit videos, most could not. At the shop we had one called “Hitachi VT-8” (why do I even remember this?), which was an extremely advanced tool which allowed to edit video material.

…25 years pass by…

I’m working from home these days, and a couple of hours ago I went downstairs for a coffee. While the coffee was brewing I watched out of the window, the Bora wind blowing in my garden, and with my phone, I shot and edited this.

 

A song

While watching a TV show the other night I heard a song and used Shazam to find out author and title (and see real-time lyrics, isn’t that feature cool?).

The next day I tried to buy the song on iTunes store, but it was only available as part of an album. Which I did not want to buy.

At this point I was quite ready to steal it, but then I found it on another site, Italian, and I got the mp3 there (it was cheaper too).

As soon as the mp3 was downloaded, iTunes imported it and it notified iCloud of my new purchase.

Seconds later the very same file that Apple didn’t want to sell to me had been automatically downloaded to my iPhone.

We live in interesting times.

Ubuntu HUD

This is an interesting idea.

I’ve been a big fan of Quicksilver for a long time, and recently I have found myself more and more going to the Search feature of the MacOS Help menu as a shortcut to other menu options. It perfectly makes sense to me. [via Brent Simmons]

[HUD] It’s a way for you to express your intent and have the application respond appropriately. We think of it as “beyond interface”, it’s the “intenterface”. This concept of “intent-driven interface” has been a primary theme of our work in the Unity shell, with dash search as a first class experience pioneered in Unity. Now we are bringing the same vision to the application, in a way which is completely compatible with existing applications and menus.

Facebook Ghetto

For the last couple of months I have kept Safari, which is my main browser, logged off Facebook. When I want to check what’s going on there (there’s many people I care for on Facebook, mostly family), I switch to Chrome. This is actually not very different from switching to the Facebook app when I’m on my iPhone or iPad. The reason I do this is to prevent Facebook from tracking my web surfing (would be nice if they would expose who they think I am as Google does).

In this set up what I find annoying are web applications that rely exclusively on Facebook for some features. For example, I would like to look into Wavii but they only support Facebook log-in (it’s a beta). Or in the case of Pinterest, the only way to find friends is, again, connecting my Facebook account.

To use these other apps I just switch to Chrome and do whatever I need with them, it’s not very different from switching from a browser window to another, I have plenty of RAM and I always run several browser anyway. But the curious result is that Chrome is becoming the ghetto of FB-only apps.

Wonder where this will end…

Social networks and me

I have been thinking about how I use/see different social networking tools these days.

I’m sharing here some observations.

Facebook

I have never been a huge fan of Facebook, but I do find it useful to keep up with a lot of relatives I would not hear from otherwise. I almost never post anything to Facebook (my tweets and Flickr photos are automatically pushed). From time to time I re-share something I like. I’m also managing a few pages, but that’s another story. I have 454 friends on Facebook, the vast majority is people I actually know somehow. I use a secondary browser or iPhone/iPad apps for Facebook, as I find slightly annoying being tracked around the web.

Google+

I liked Google+ a lot in the first weeks. That’s probably because there was very little people there, and conversations seemed to be meaningful. Then Robert Scoble published a circle which included my account, and suddenly I had more than 5000 followers. I like the concept of circles, and I liked the idea of keeping a circle of “Italians” to post stuff in Italian (it’s incredible how bad all social networks are when you speak more than one language and you have friends who only speak one of them), but with the large number of followers I gave up keeping my circles sorted. Today I have 6710 followers and 205 people in my circles: I add those I find interesting. I still check Google Plus a few times a day (using my regular browser… I just can’t live without letting Google know everything I do).

Twitter

I’m not very good with Twitter. I find it hard to post meaningful stuff in 140 characters. I follow 439 accounts (people, companies, queens, squirrels, etc). Have 1815 followers. Sometimes I retweet something, I use it to push links (this post is a good candidate), but I don’t check Twitter that often. I have a list named “friends” I try to follow a bit more, but they keep hiding the lists feature in every UI change and I guess I will give up on them soon.

LinkedIn

For a very long time I was super-serious about not accepting connections from people I didn’t actually know. Lately I have been a little less strict about the rule (I do accept connections from people I find interesting, even if I don’t know them). I still turn down Indian businessmen and Venezuelan PR agencies, and I’m always slightly amazed by the fact that people I know do connect with them. I don’t see what’s the point.  I have more than 500 connections on LinkedIn. From time to time it has been useful to find some information about people I knew, but it really never worked when trying to make contact with others.

Path

Like many others, recently I have been playing with Path. I like to think of it as the network of people I like. It’s too soon to say if it will last, but it’s promising and I like the design of the app. If you wake up and your dsl line is down, friends will think that you sleep for days.

Foursquare

After some pretty intense activity in the past, I’m not checking it anymore. Never accepted contacts from people I didn’t know relatively well (knowing where I am is kinda private).

Others

I also have Plancast, Friendfeed, Quora, Dopplr, Digg, Slideshare in my “social-networking-open-all-with-one-click” bookmark, but I can’t really say I find any use in my accounts on those networks.

 How about social networks and you?

Tools

Brent Simmons on comments:

I see my blog that way: it’s one place on the web, the place where I write. It’s one leaf on a tree. It doesn’t have to contain everything. These days there are so many ways and places to comment — so many other tools — that including comments here would be Emacs-like.

Time to blog

I started blogging about 10 years ago. My first posts are still there. Blogging was in the air. We were writing our posts, aggregating our feeds and updating our blogrolls.

I was still working in a nice corner office, my company was well funded, and I “had no idea what kind of shit was about to go down”. Let’s just say that few months later somebody burst my bubble.

For the following three or four years blogging is what really kept me going. It gave me contacts, business, partners, ideas. For a while also some small visibility which at times has been useful (and at times annoying).

Then it faded out. It wasn’t for the emergence of other social networking tools, I didn’t really moved elsewhere, I just stopped sharing. Partially it was because the conversation on blogging tools was pretty much over. Partially because there was a lot of smarter people with more interesting stuff to say. And also because I reached a number of reader that scared me.

Anyway, “the times they are a-changin'” (big time!), I think I will have more to share this year: it’s time to start blogging again.