Ralph Shao

omg ninjas Ralph Shao © 2014
Powered by Obtvse

Pretend like it's the weekend now... and we can pretend it all the time...

Chill summer tunes

I started using Turntable.fm back in January and have since rediscovered my hipster self. If you'd like to join me, my turntable name is :sailboat: and I mostly hang out in the Indie/Classic Alternative 1 & Done room. The people in there play great music and are cool to chat with.

My big summer recommendation is Pacific Air's new album, Stop Talking. It was released on June 11, just in time for summer. They have a nice relaxing dreampop sound, rather characteristic of being from California. You may have heard their single, Float, last year if you keep up with upcoming indie artists.

Without further ado:

I found out after the fact that these guys played a show with Atlas Genius at The Sinclair just a few weeks ago. Bummed I missed it.

Let's compare apples to apples

As expected, the loudest criticisms of the iOS 7 preview are that it looks too much like Windows or Android. The side by side comparison with the Windows phone is quite revealing, actually.

Forgetting for a moment that I've become quite the Apple fan in recent years, what bothers me about these sorts of comparison articles is that it cheapens the design of an operating system. These reviewers either choose to forget or disregard that to an end user, the experience with a product is not split into a hardware experience versus a software experience; it's not split into an app experience versus an operating system experience. The end user experiences a product as a single holistic interaction with the entirety of the product.

To Nokia and Microsoft's credit, I think Windows Phone and the Lumia 920 do an excellent job of thinking of the unified end user experience. It does a great job of considering how each screen interacts in the bigger context of holding the entire device. It did a great job of rejecting the over-embellished skeumorphism trend. The big blemish, however, was using underpowered hardware, that didn't allow its brilliant software to shine as well as it should have. I think this is the reason Apple includes those demos of Infinity Blade in its new iPhone announcements. This is also where the Lumia 920 failed to deliver.

Most of the criticisms I see try to isolate what should be a seamless product, the iPhone, into its constituent parts and take potshots in a vacuum. They forget that iOS is not a standalone offering -- it is the software face of the iPhone. Too often, these criticisms simply end up being somewhere between straw man arguments and a fallacy of composition. Did Notification Center take after Android's notifications or tweaks from the jailbreak community? Sure. Do the various screens in iOS 7 take after screens from Windows Phone and Android? Sure. Did Apple come up with these ideas first? Apparently not. Have these changes in iPhone and iOS created a better product that continues to delight its consumers? Fuck yes, they do.

I think the proper comparison for iOS 7 isn't to Android or Windows; it's to iOS 6. We're only in the first developer beta of iOS 7 so far (and I hesitate to install it since I won't be able to build to device on it from Xcode 4.6.2), so I'll hold my opinion on it until it's more fully baked. From what I've seen so far though, the changes are in the right direction. If the redesign of iOS 7 makes an iPhone user's experience with their devices more enjoyable, I think it's a win. If the redesign of iOS 7 validates the Android, Windows Phone, and jailbreaking communities in their choices for certain feature sets, I think that's also a win.

The one question that matters at the end of the day: Are users now more delighted by the products they use and love?

Bookends

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was

A time of innocence, a time of confidences

Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph

Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you

Ira Glass on the gap between your work and taste

I noticed I've had this one 37signals blog post marked unread for a while because I wanted to do something with it. It's a photo of a poster of this quote that I heard about a year ago that I really liked. Sure, it has a few misspellings, but I suppose it sort of fits — it's not quite good yet.

What Ira Glass said though, is spot on:

What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

I think it doesn't apply only to creative work. Anything that we do, we got into it because we liked it and were excited by it.

You can also watch the original video if you like.

Repost: iPhone mockup frame (PDF)

A friend emailed me to repost my iPhone mockup frame. I'm glad people are actually using it. :)

Originally posted August 15, 2011:

We’ve had to do lots of paper prototypes and mockups at The Tap Lab and I thought I’d share the PDF I whipped up that we draw all over.

If you make sure to print at 100% (let it clip, there’s just white around the edges), it’s 2 actual-sized iPhones per page with considerable margin for notes.

Time for a reboot

My last post on my Tumblr was back in November, so I think it's time for another reboot. To get this off to the right start, I wanted to first figure out why my blogging activity keeps falling into periods of lulls where I stop blogging altogether. It seems it really comes down to two big reasons:

  1. I'm generally pretty busy with other stuff. (Duh!)
  2. I always get really excited in the beginning phases of a blog, because it's fun to set up and customize, but then it inevitably starts to get stale when the day-to-day is just writing new entries.

Which brings me to this reboot... I'm excited to mess around with Nate Wienert's Obtvse blogging platform. I may be a little late to the party here, since the big hubbub came about when Nate released Obtvse in reaction to Dustin Curtis's Svtble network. The minimalist design of both the template and the admin system feels much more approachable than Wordpress or even Tumblr, so I'm hoping it'll lower the hurdle to blogging for me.

Also, I'm ashamed to admit I'm rather unknowledgeable when it comes to Markdown, so I'm excited to pick it up and learn it so I can be able to utilize it in other things, like (dare I say it?) documenting code.

In contrast to previous reboots, I think I'm going to use this opportunity for a wipe as well. My old posts dated all the way back through high school, and probably have very little value to anyone other than some sentimental value to me.

Some first impressions:

  1. Installation was relatively simple, but it's made me realize a bit more that I ought to distill some of my server setup workflow into scripts, perhaps some homebrewed to start, though Chef and Puppet look pretty interesting.
  2. The UI (accidentally or not) prescribes a certain length of post. Even this one that I'm writing now is hitting the bottom of the text field, and I keep having to scroll down to see what I'm typing. I might roll some JavaScript to fix this.
  3. The default style doesn't show list markers. That is, the stylesheet has this at the very top:

    ul {list-style-type:none;}
    

    I haven't yet taken the time to figure out what the best way is to override this, so for now (and this post), I'm just not using unordered bullet lists. :)

  4. It'll be interesting to see how to maintain my own fork of Obtvse over time. So far, I've just got a few extra commits that I'm hoping I can keep rebasing on top of Nate's master. I intend to keep the style minimalist since I like that sort of stuff anyway, but I may add in tiny bit of flair soon, like a ninja perhaps.

So here it is. I've rebooted my blog. And it's so much cleaner...