Beautiful translucency in Yosemite 
October 21st, 2014

I was just using iTunes, still exploring Yosemite and boom, there’s this stunning lovely translucent panel, an artifact of such artistry that it stopped me cold.

Ignore the exact message, just look at that alert! The translucency is visually beautiful, but more beautiful still is the care required to make it possible, the computational power, the delicate aesthetic balancing to ensure that what’s above is not rendered illegible by what’s below.

It didn’t just happen. Someone made it happen, and when you consider why someone would expend the great effort to do so, the simplest explanation to anyone but a hardened cynic is that someone cared. There, in an alert, was beauty. How remarkable is that?

Does it make the alert easier to read? No. Does it maybe even make it a little harder to read? Perhaps, but if so only to a vanishingly small degree.

To some the issue might stop there and the translucency would be rejected. But Apple appreciates there’s always a tradeoff in design, that there’s a tradeoff here involving local readability and global context. There’s content beneath that might provide context for the alert, so the translucency isn’t frivolous.

The easy way would have been to make the alert background partially transparentalert.alpha = 0.8;—but that might have made the alert text difficult to read against an arbitrary background.

Translucency is much harder, but so much more beautiful and so much more appreciated. Thanks, Apple.


Bangkok Post reviews Art Scrambles 
July 16th, 2014

From a review of Art Scrambles by Graham K. Rogers in today’s Bangkok Post:

This app is an undiscovered gem and I found myself playing it for longer than I should.

You can also read the entire review with better screenshots on Graham’s personal site.

Inspecting Yosemite’s Icons 
July 7th, 2014

From Nick Keppol at MartianCraft, a beautiful analysis of Apple’s beautiful design language for OS X Yosemite’s icons:

Craig Federighi called out the translucent material of the new dock when Apple unveiled Yosemite. At first I laughed when I saw the keynote — “it’s just a blur and a white transparent overlay” I said to myself. You can discount it as marketing speak, but the new icons act as physical objects with materials in actual space more than in any prior OS. They even do this while maintaining a flatter look.


Scriabin’s strange bedfellows 
July 4th, 2014

“What could be finer on the 4th of July than some great music? Scriabin!”



“Huh? Hubert Parry? What in the world…”


“What the—Copland? Really?”


“Ralph Vaughn Williams? What is this, ‘Pastoral Radio’?”


“A late Beethoven string quartet?”


On Rotation 
March 31st, 2014

Art Scrambles, our free art puzzle game for iPad, already supports both portrait and landscape orientation, but I’ve been thinking back on the effort involved after reading two posts by others on the subject: Continue reading

Those wonderful Mac App Store restrictions 
June 23rd, 2012

Gene Steinberg worries that the Mac App Store isn’t serving the customer:

But now consider the millions of people who buy Macs for the very first time each year. Many of them have been exposed to the halo effect of an iPhone and an iPad, and they are accustomed to buying all their software from the App Store. When they boot their new Mac for the very first time, they see in the Dock a Mac App Store. To them, that’s probably the sole repository of software for their new computer.

Now I realize that more sophisticated users, coming from the Windows platform, will explore the availability of other apps online, and they will discover a rich variety of software that isn’t offered in Apple’s storefront. But many others will never stray beyond the default setting, nor bother looking elsewhere for useful apps. That’s not a good thing for developers who seek the freedom to expand the possibilities of the Mac platform with their apps. It doesn’t serve the customer, because they are often missing out on some very good things. [emphasis mine]

Are customers really missing out on good things by relying on the Mac App Store?

Who is the customer of the Mac App Store? Most likely, not you. Not entirely, anyway.

Mac App Store restrictions help to create a robust and safe market for curated platform software. They’re features, just as they are on the iOS App Store.

If you instead find these restrictions limiting, you’re a power user and can find software elsewhere. You know how to install this software and you’re capable of dealing with issues that might arise from doing so.

Few people handle technical complexity well. The lucky ones who can are a small minority sharing the platform with many more who cannot. You’d naturally like your utility software to also be available in the Mac App Store, but most people wouldn’t know what to do when things went awry. Utility developers naturally want to offer their software in the Mac App Store, but if that software would lead most people into the weeds it should be rightly stopped at the gate.

Imagine people who don’t change default settings, who rely on the Mac App Store for software. When you propose weakening the restrictions imposed by the Mac App Store, are you thinking of them, or yourself? If removing or weakening a restriction would cause these people grief, what are they supposed to do when they encounter a problem?

Apple introduced the Mac App Store for these people. If it turns out that power users can use the Mac App Store for some of their needs, then great. But those power users shouldn’t expect to use it for all of their needs.

The incredible lightness of being iPad 
June 4th, 2012

Bloomberg reported today that Scoot Pte, a low-cost long-haul Singapore Airlines subsidiary, replaced their aircraft entertainment system with iPads to save fuel. According to the report, the old system weighed more than 2 tons and replacing it cut 7 percent off the weight of the plane.

Scoot’s Boeing Co. 777-200s have 400 seats, so the old system averaged more than 10 pounds per seat. The new iPads weigh a little less than 1.5 pounds, saving more than 8.5 pounds per seat.

Carrying one iPad per seat would save a combined total of more than 3400 pounds, but the savings is probably even higher because they’ll probably carry fewer iPads. Oh, I’m sorry, we’re all out.

A pretty good deal for the airline. They save fuel costs and charge passengers to use the iPads.

A few thoughts:

1. The old system must have been a clunker. More than 10 pounds per seat.

2. By striving to build the best tablet possible Apple ended up saving airline fuel costs. How beautiful is that?

3. Can you imagine ultrabooks being used for this?

We’ll chip in for the wake 
June 4th, 2012

Joel Schectman and Jessica E. Vascellaro explain in the Wall Street Journal how ad networks continue to claim they’re entitled to bypass your iPhone privacy:

“If there is no advertising the majority of apps would die,” said Ouriel Ohayon, the co-founder of Appsfire, a mobile marketing company that initiated efforts to create the other tracking tool Open UDID. “It would wreck the whole industry.”

No, it wouldn’t wreck the industry, but those of us willing to pay for apps would be happy to chip in for the wake, too.

O Reader Safari 
May 26th, 2012

O Reader Safari, delightfully clear
Your generous details so helpful and dear
The background, the margins, preserving my place
All subtle, all quiet, all rendered with grace


Those beautiful shadows at bottom and top
To highlight the start and to show where to stop
That stylish entrance, that elegant bow
Those motions so deft, indispensible now


Those tools deferential, how they fade from your view
Then return in a blink when beckoned anew
So tranquil, overlooked, underseen
Lend a rhythm and flair to your dignified mien

Those words, shown with serifs at legible size
So delightful and calming to rushed, tired eyes
So too are the banished, the clutter and noise
Pushed aside and away, leaving focus and joys


O Reader Safari, modest blade in the grass
Our thanks for your grace in this sprawling morass

A little gift 
May 21st, 2012

From brian s hall, quoting a reader’s explanation of Apple’s sometimes mysterious ways:

Here’s an example: I once went to the online Apple store to buy a spare power supply for a MacBook Pro only to find that the part number on the one I had was discontinued. The picture of the new one looked almost identical to the one I had and the price was the same, so why did they change it?

I did some research and found that Apple replaced the power supply for all laptops because they had found a nifty new way of making power supply cables. The new unit had these very soft, pliable and much thinner cables with a non-stick coating on them. The result was that you could wad these things up into a ball, cram them into your briefcase and when you took them out all you needed to do was give it a shake and the cords fell down clean and straight with neither a tangle or a knot.

I never knew how much I hated tangled power supply cords until Apple made them go away. It’s a small thing, but every time I plugged in my power supply, I smiled. Because it seemed to me like they had gone out of their way to make this thing a little nicer for me and never charged me for their trouble or even took credit for it…it was like they had given me a little gift.

The Germans use gemütlichkeit to describe that relaxed and cozy feeling you get in a wonderful room like a warm and convivial pub. Is there a word like that, but for recognizing quiet generosity?

There should be. It would be applied to Apple a lot.