The hamburger

Recently the hamburger button has taken off on the internet and mobile apps. While the button itself is quite old I would imagine part of the reason for its take-off has been the anti-Skeuomorph movement.

I get the point of that movement and to an extent I understand it. However while children now and in the future may not know what a floppy is I would then argue that its origin doesn't really matter. It just becomes the symbol that everyone understands what it does.

The problem with the hamburger is there is no definitive action for it. Ironically while not being skeuomorphic it's been associated with a real world item anyway and arguably in a way more confusing than a floppy disc.

I think it's quite a handy icon but it's ridges imply it should be draggable and pull something into view. If it does that it's often not in a direction that goes with the ridges. Horizontal ridges would imply a thumb should pull down.

I've recently seen the hamburger used for bringing up pop-up menus. It has no defined use so I would have to agree with the wikipedia entry which mentions poor design choice.

We do need new design ideas but let qualified designers work on it. Rather than it being something programmers use to cut costs on design (like flat design).

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 11:13 p.m. by toadwarrior

RIP Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird has been more or less on its death bed since 2012 but Mozilla has made it official that they don't care for it and they're dropping Thunderbird entirely. Now this could be a good thing for Thunderbird but I think it's unlikely. At least not anytime soon.

I've moved away from Thunderbird a couple months ago largely because I've felt the writing was on the wall for the program despite it being an excellent little email / newsgroup client.

What concerns me more is what will happen to Firefox which seems to be quite keen on going down the Opera route of becoming a Chrome clone. I didn't mind the little visual tweaks but the whole extension signing process among other things which will throw all their loyal add-on developers under a bus doesn't seem like the right move forward.

I'm not sure they understand why people use Firefox and if they're going to create a very Chrome-like browser then surely that means user's might as well just use Chrome.

Not surprisingly I've moved fully over to Safari too after so many years of Netscape / Firefox usage. Now that Firefox is on iOS I should be joyed that my preferred browser is there but I've simply lost any confidence in Mozilla understanding its users. I joined the internet with Netscape Navigator, I've got my donor shirt and now I'm just ignoring them.

It'll be interesting to see what happens on Linux. I will use Firefox there for the foreseeable future but we'll have to see what the future holds.

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 11:01 p.m. by toadwarrior

LastFM closes down RSS access

If you've been using RSS feeds from LastFM you'll probably have noticed that they quit working. I believe this was back in September. In October they implied it was coming back shortly.

So far it looks like LastFM RSS feeds still don't work despite being on the API page.

If they don't want to give people nice, easy, open access to their own data then to be honest what is the point of using LastFM? It's a bit rubbish as a source of music to be honest and it's not really growing in any meaningful way as far as I can tell.

I think they need to be more honest about their intentions so people such as myself can know if they should remove what is currently unused code / functionality based on their feeds.

This would appear to be yet another case towards proving that 'open data' APIs are anything but.

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 10:44 p.m. by toadwarrior

Musical regression

One of the promises of the early internet was having access to anything from anywhere. That's not really turned out to be the case. Take music. When you had to rely on a record shop you would have to wait a week or two if they didn't have something you wanted. However you could get imports and occasionally bootlegs. Anything you wanted could be had. The downside again was possibly the wait and if you really liked music the space.

If you use any digital music service you'll get only what your region is allowed to have. Imports are gone despite the zero cost of providing all music to anyone. You'll get music that is in a good enough format but it's still inferior and as it will likely be in a lossy format the idea of format shifting isn't ideal.

Searching music through any digital source requires that you know what you're looking for. Discovering new music is quite hard. With a record shop you could browse everything. You could ask someone for a recommendation based on some vague description of what you're feeling like listening to. Why can't I look through every single album in a given genre on iTunes? I wouldn't expect to ask amazon or iTunes for a recommendation based on a vague description. Search is largely smoke and mirrors. It's just not that intelligent. It could be quite good but that would require a lot of man hours populating metadata. So the best solution would be to let me look through everything without me needing to know the band's name in advance.

What I get is that when I want something right now I can have it now. Of course that requires paying a middle man for the internet connection and the internet connection being available. So I'm not sure I'm getting a good deal by sacrificing choice and freedom for satisfying impatience.

I'm not even going to factor in streaming. The selection is far worse and should I ever lose my job I lose all my music. Right when I might be down in the dumps and wanting music to cheer me up.

It should require no extra processing to browse the whole of iTunes should I choose to waste my time and surely it must be more cost effective to remove the regional restrictions so could we not get these things? We need someone to push for this just as Steve Jobs kept publicly speaking out against DRM on music in iTunes but the new digital companies are quite happy to not rock the boat. They're not about giving users freedom and being open but rather locking users in. So for now the best choice for getting music is still CDs. I just wish I had the space.

Posted on 6 Aug 2015, 10:37 p.m. by toadwarrior

Mega Ran games music

I've discovered an 'chip-hop' artist called Mega Ran. Checkout his Black Materia album (FFVII inspired) and Forever Famicom with K-Murdock.

Posted on 27 Jul 2015, 8:30 p.m. by toadwarrior

Rest in peace Satoru Iwata

Satoru Iwata was the best CEO Nintendo had. He was possibly the only CEO worthy of looking up to and he as recently passed away at the young age of 55 due to tumor in his bile duct.

He was one of those rare CEOs that worked his way up from the bottom and I think this was reflected in how he did his job. He cared about his customers and his employees more than his shareholders. He was talented enough to be that technical guy while also being able to flawlessly pull off his president / CEO role.

I've not been a fan of IGN for some time but they did some really good coverage of Iwata's passing. Including this bit on 11 memorable Iwata quotes and this excellent farewell tribute to Iwata.

He was had a great personality, he was respectful and not full of himself he was truly someone to look up to. I think both of Nintendo's presidents / CEOs were excellent. However Hiroshi Yamauchi was more gangster hard-ass cool. You could respect him and you liked reading about things he had said and did but you probably didn't want to be him. But Satoru Iwata had more of a hero respect. He was definitely someone to aspire to be.

I hope for the best for his family and he will not be forgotten.

Posted on 14 Jul 2015, 11:26 p.m. by toadwarrior

Apple watch mini review

Since the announcement of the Apple Watch I've been interested in it but I've never been entirely sure if I would see any real benefit. It is admittedly a bit pricey. But then two weeks ago I had a demo session in the local Apple store and that was it. I knew I had to have it. I was unsure which one I wanted so I meant to put off the purchase for a month. To give me time to think about it. I lasted a week and it arrived the end of last week.

I went with the larger Watch Sport. I think that was the best choice. It's not even so much about the price but I'm very interested in the fitness features and the others either look worse with the sport band or just don't work as a sports watch with the other bands.

So anyway, I've had it nearly a week now and I have to say I'm glad I went ahead and bought it. I expected there to be a manual - there wasn't really (at least not in the box). The iPhone app points you towards one but to be honest it's pretty straight forward. You can just play around with it and it's largely operates in a very natural way rendering a manual almost redundant.

I will say the setup process is long. Not so much in a bad way. It takes seconds to sync the watch to you phone and it's working straight away. But there seems to be a lot of background syncing that can take some time. Perhaps it's partially because of all the music on my iPhone and moving all the thumbnails over and stuff like that but it felt like it took a good 30 minutes or more to make it complete. Not that it rendered useless in anyway. It's just that you might find, for example, it's not syncing activity data just yet. Your steps and all that will eventually make it's way over though.

The ability to control your music from the watch and get notifications alone makes it very handy but easy to use activity and work out tracking really seals the deal. For me at least. Perhaps if you're just flat out against doing anything physical there's not much of a reason for you to have one but I find myself make the extra effort. So it's a positive effect on my health and in my mind even for £350 that's not that much if my health is improved even if in some ways it's just a pricey toy.

The battery life is certainly good enough. Admittedly I don't take calls on it but it's not because I think it's bad for that - actually I don't know. It's just not my thing to be taking calls in a more public way like that. Messaging works quite well. It seems to recognise what I say more than my iPhone had done itself in the past. I'm in an awkward position of being an American in the UK. While my accent has changed some I think the iPhone originally had some trouble as it may be slightly tweaked to in this region to consider speech difference which actually I don't want / need. But whatever it works though again it's a bit too public I can't see myself using a lot. I'm sure that factors in a lot to the battery life. Not making calls easily would give me perhaps a day and a half maybe a bit more out of the battery. I've fallen asleep with it on and it's not really been a problem. I'm just not going to want to sleep with it on (just as I never slept with any watch on in the past) so having to charge it every day isn't an issue.

I suspect transferring music onto the watch and playing it from the watch will affect the battery life. If that's your thing go for it but I struggle to see why I would want to duplicate my music that's on my phone. It feels like wasting space.

The apple watch and activity app on your phone are the key apps for interfacing with apple watch. Both are great in my mind. I like that the watch app gives you a filtered view on the app store to make it easier to browse watch related apps.

So over all I'm really happy with it and I would definitely recommend it. It is a bit expensive and it is worth looking over the features to see if it benefits you but if it has features you want and especially if you're into fitness and exercise I'd say go for it.

Posted on 24 Jun 2015, 10:45 p.m. by toadwarrior

iOS app idea

My Mac Mini serves as my media centre for my TV. I'm sure Apple TV is nice but I want a little more and the Mini is so small anyway. It just makes sense.

I have a wireless mouse and keyboard. It works well enough and I'm generally happy with it but what I'd love to see Apple do is come up with an app that let's me use my phone ideally as a keyboard and mouse. At least as a trackpad at the very least.

I feel there would be other reasons this would come in handy (presentations as an example) but it's basically the best way do a remote for a PC based media centre.

What you do is say when the app is open and the phone is in the normal vertical position is acts as a trackpad. I can drag my finger around the screen and control the mouse cursor.

I then rotate the phone into a horizontal position and the screen becomes a keyboard allowing me to obviously use it as a wireless keyboard.

If Apple makes this happen I would be a very happy person.

Posted on 24 Jun 2015, 9:43 p.m. by toadwarrior

Web vs. native: let’s concede defeat

I don't have much to add other than I completely agree with this article about the web's failings for application development.

Posted on 26 May 2015, 11:32 p.m. by toadwarrior

Mad Max and the road to disappointment

I've always been a fan of the mad max films. I've watched the road warrior so many times I'm surprised I don't own a pair of assless leather trousers. I even have an appreciation for Beyond Thunderdome.

So I was expecting to enjoy Mad Max: Fury Road even with the reservations I had after seeing the previews. I mean how could it be be as bad as Beyond Thunderdome? There's no children looking for captain walker.

I was wrong, it's worse than Beyond Thunderdome and even when considering it on its own it's a bit lame. It suffers from having a big budget and as a result being designed for focus groups rather than creating a genuinely good film.

For starters it would seem that radiation has given everyone in Australia an American accent. They seemed to be afraid to have anyone that sounds different which is kind of odd given that Exodus: Gods and Kings gave us a Ramses with an aussie accent. Perhaps hollywood just doesn't like people to have their correct accent?

There is little violence or gore in the film. The mad max films never had much in the way of gore but this one has been sanitised quite heavily which makes any instance of violence or gore feel out of place. The reason being is that the film is very busy. Tons of things are always going on except when there's bloodshed. That happens out of view and in a rather dull fashion.

Neither Tom Hardy or Charlize Theron add anything to the film. Max seems to be going for best lawn ornament impression through most of the film and Furiosa certainly doesn't live up to her name.

The whole film can be summed up as someone thinking the most popular bit of the road warrior was the ending so it would make sense to make a whole film like that. No story, not even any conversation really just a lot of explosions to compensate for the lack of blood and lots of cars driving in the straightest possible lines. Most cars doesn't seem to do anything either. You just have a swarm of cars to fill out the scene while a handful of cars actually do something.

The guy from the trailer with the flaming guitar - that's basically his high point. The of the film he just shows up randomly making random noise to, as far as I can tell, pad out the scene. The same with the guys swinging on the poles. You just wouldn't have that. It makes no sense but it makes the scene busier and perhaps you'll not notice the complete lack of dialog and story.

Other visual problems include a swamp scene where everything is very blue. It's clearly being achieve with computer effects and doesn't look terribly good and it just doesn't really make sense that there's a place so dark and wet in the middle of a place that very bright and dry elsewhere. Surely people would be all up on that trying to collect water to take back to their home.

The films also suffers from plot holes and if you're going to watch it I would say to skip this paragraph to avoid spoilers.. Near the beginning of the chase where Immortan Joe (the main bad guy of the film) realises his wives have been stolen by Furiosa everyone ends up going into massive sand storm. Through the whole thing they appear to be keeping up with Furiosa but then it cuts to the end of the sandstorm. Max and the car he had been strapped onto wrecked in the chase. But they're so close he carry a body and a door in the hot sun all the way to Furiosa's truck. So I would imagine it wasn't that far off. She's running for her life. She wouldn't have sat there all day. So where did everyone else go. Why are they so far back again when everything kicks off again? Later in the film they get stuck in the dark blue swamp I mentioned before. They only barely got out of that but then seem to have zero problem going through it the second time. One the wives also falls out of the truck early in the film. You assume she dies but the other wives and Furiosa are keen to go back. Max isn't and lies about her being squished under the tyres. They ask numerous times and you assume a point is being made to Max lying to save their backsides. So surely this is a key point, right? Later in the film you find out this woman survived but her baby did not. So Immortan Joe says to cut the baby out. Obviously he wants to save his wife to presumably get her pregnant again. Anyway, we now see she's alive. Again there's another point that can play into creating some actual story. But no, she's never heard from again after that or maybe she was in Immorten Joe's car when Furiosa takes it over. I don't know I lost the will to care that point and if she was no one seems terribly bothered that Max lied and she's healed well for being cut open to have a dead baby pulled out. Oh then there's Furiosa trying to avoid having her tyres punctured but when it happens we find out her truck basically has steal wheels inside and there's no reason to fear getting a flat.

All those points mentioned above and the busy visuals lead to a quite boring film that's hard to follow despite not much actually happening. For a film called fury road it doesn't feel that emotional and no one seem that angry.

Lastly, one of the key points made was that this film wouldn't rely heavily on computer graphics but instead would have more real stunts. Well maybe there more real stunts than many other films but this film is loaded with computer graphics. So much so it feels lifeless. The other mad max films were quite intimate and they were stories about characters. Everyone played off of each other and they felt important to the film. Not so in Fury road. As mentioned earlier, I think they could pull Furiosa and Mad Max out of the film and it wouldn't have made the films worse.

I suppose if you didn't realise Fury Road is a sequel then perhaps it's a better film.

If you've thought I wish they'd make a mad max film that I can take my children (albeit older children) to then it's probably a good film for you though Beyond Thunderdome already fits that bill and has a story.

If you suffer from attention deficit disorder and don't like story or dialog but love action then you're going to have an absolute blast with this film.

Posted on 17 May 2015, 10:39 p.m. by toadwarrior

How not to advertise a job

Here's an article about someone's experience with an awful job description. The person did downplay the level of programming experience that was necessarily but you can't blame them. Just reading over half of it and it's obvious the company is asking for something that simply does not exist.

Anyone who has applied for and had numerous jobs will soon learn that many job descriptions aren't exactly truthful. It's as if employers list every possible thing they would want and then hope for the best. Then wonder why the 'wrong' people are applying.

Reading over the job description implies to me they want more of a designer than a programmer but their experience in the interview says different.

If you're hiring and you're finding it hard to get the right people there's a good chance the problem is with you not the candidates.

Posted on 11 May 2015, 10:45 p.m. by toadwarrior

Anime recommendation

I've just completed Tokyo Ghoul on Netflix and I'd thoroughly recommend it. They only have season 1 and while I wouldn't put it up there with the likes of Steins; Gate or Eden of the East it was definitely enjoyable and worth having a look.

Posted on 10 May 2015, 10 p.m. by toadwarrior