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Posts tagged feature

Taking 5: Xbox One and Backwards Compatibility

Earlier this month Xbox partner development lead Frank Savage let it slip that there are some plans for the Xbox One to get some backwards compatability. From Joystiq:

"There are [plans], but we’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately," said Savage, as reported by Kotaku Australia. “It turns out to be hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff on the X86 stuff. So there’s nothing to announce, but I would love to see it myself.”

So here’s the thing. I don’t really want (or expect) 60 dollar retail Xbox 360 games playable on my Xbox One. As… fanboy(?)  as it sounds, I do have a perfectly good Xbox 360 sitting right next to my Xbox One, and if I really have the need to play Halo 4 or The Club I can very easily turn it on. Actually, I was playing the BioShock Infinite DLC over the weekend.

What I DO want, and what I think would be really important to people, is if XBLA games were backwards compatible. XBLA games are a great way to augment the library on new hardware. I (like many people I know) purchased a lot of XBLA games. Most of which are highly repayable, and really helped define the last console generation.

I’ve actually been putting some really solid time into Geometry Wars 2 (it’s basically a perfect game. The game modes, the music, and the visual aesthetic compliment each other so well, no other game I’ve played is this well put together). It’s a great way to wind down after a 14 hour day on set (as my day job I’m a commercial producer) or after a couple of really intense games of Titanfall.

I guess what I’m saying is even if it’s “hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff” and doing so uses a lot of computing power, it shouldn’t affect most XBLA titles. So I hope we see some backwards compatibility on Xbox One and I hope I can migrate some of those titles over.

-Creighton

Updated Multitasking Screen In iOS 7

When iOS 7 launched this fall one of the biggest oooh and aaah moments was when people saw the new multitasking screen. In practice, it’s not very much different than the old one (that just popped up on the bottom), but users could now see their apps in their paused status. It looked pretty cool, but it didn’t really add that much more functionality.

More and more, I find myself in an app and wanting to jump into one of the apps in my doc, (honestly, it’s usually Chrome or Mail).

Scenario: I’ll take a picture with ProCamera. The moment passes and I want to search something. I could swear that I was just in Chrome so I double tap the home screen to swipe left. Turns out, I haven’t been on Chrome in a while so I end up swiping a bit one way, then I go back the other way, all the way back to my home screen and launch Chrome from my dock.

Is part of this a personal problem? Absolutely. I can’t remember which apps I was just using. But including the dock on the multitasking screen only adds functionality. Easily move the preview icons to the top of the screen, instead of the bottom, and add the dock.

It turns the double tap into a launcher. It also makes the dock even more important. Suddenly your dock apps become the apps you want to launch quickly, from any screen not just from any home screen. I know I would move Tweetbot there in place of Music. Music has just been there for so long that it’s muscle memory.

Using the multitasking screen to launch dock apps would be faster than springing out to a home screen and then jumping back into an app. 

As it stands now, I can double tap my home button see a couple of recently used applications. Adding the dock isn’t really that much of a stretch.

-Creighton

The Internet and The Mobile Web

The internet is divided and it has been for some time. Even though it’s now 2014, there are still two very distinct internets. There’s the regular web we all know on computers. The internet we see in Chrome, or Safari, or Internet Explorer. And there’s the mobile web. And it’s really unfortunate that these two things can be so different. That there even is such a thing as the “regular” internet. That I have to differentiate. That anyone differentiates.

I would like to say that it’s one group of people causing the problems, but it’s everyone and most of it makes no sense. We keep hearing the same thing repeated over and over “the mobile web is the web.” Just a few weeks ago Google chairman Eric Schmidt said,”the trend has been mobile was winning; it’s now won. There are more tablets and phones sold than personal computers. People are moving to this new architecture very fast.”

Yet Google’s own products do not show parity on the web and on mobile, within apps or on mobile sites. If you visit m.youtube.com it is impossible to find an embed code. You click the share button, but the options are just for links. The YouTube app yields the same results. I can share on Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Email, but can’t find an embed code if I want to share it anywhere else.

The share options on a computer are much more robust and I have the option to get the embed code, if I so choose.

Not that getting an embed code would help me on Tumblr. On Tumblr’s iOS app you don’t even have the option to embed a video, even if you could find an embed code. You can only upload a video directly to Tumblr. I’m sorry Tumblr, but no one wants to use your video player. 

Hulu is another odd bird. I pay for Hulu Plus (I don’t have cable and I like watching TV shows on my Xbox). Yet, sometimes when I want to watch a show it tells me that it’s “web only.” Huh? So Hulu doesn’t think an Xbox is the web. I can get Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and most importantly Hulu, but it’s not the web. And I need to use a laptop to access the content I’m paying for. 

Never mind that sometimes videos are just not playable on mobile devices. Once US Weekly once told me to read one of their articles on a computer. 

I do wish I was kidding. Nice to know that 524 people liked it though. 

And just this week NHL.com wouldn’t let me watch highlights on my computer, but I was allowed to watch them on the NHL’s GameCenter iOS app. The pop over wasn’t asking me to log in it wanted me to upgrade to the next tier. I already I pay for the lowest level of GameCenter so I can listen to the radio broadcasts of Ranger games on my phone - a feature that’s completely free at NHL.com.

These are just a few of the issues that form the great divide that is the internet and the mobile web. Mobile citizens are still deemed second class, even when the Chairman of the largest internet company declared mobile has won.

As a user, and often times as someone paying to see content, it’s incredibly frustrating when there is any kind of disparity. Why I can watch a NHL highlight on my phone and not on my computer is absolutely bonkers. And it makes me want to murder.

I don’t really know how to fix this problem going forward. The only thing I can think of is for any developers to read this and implement any functionality in on your website or on the desktop version of your application, put it in your app, and vice versa.  Because as long as the little things like a lack of embed codes exists the New York Times will double bill you to see certain parts of their content digitally.

Quick note: I’ve tried to write this article a few times, in 2011 and again in early 2013, but stopped because I felt like it was too long. It pains me that 3 years later it’s still an issue.

-Creighton

Taking 5: iOS 7 Music App And Wasted Space

When Apple updated iOS from 6 to 7 worlds like “modern” and “minimalist” were thrown around in every article I read, despite the fact that the way I use the phone is largely the same. I, personally, care more about usability than looks. Function over fashion.

The new style of iOS 7 doesn’t really inhibit my every day. It’s usually fine, and in many ways makes my life easier. But one implementation inhibits my day to day, the music app. 

Listening to music on my phone is very important to me. It was one of the main reasons I couldn’t commit to the Lumia 1020. As I’ve used iOS 7 I can’t help but notice the tremendous amount of wasted space in Music.

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I usually sort my music by artist. In iOS 6 you can see 10 artists on a single page. In iOS 7 you only see 4. And there is a tremendous amount of space above and below the name of artist. I understand that Apple wanted to include more data, like album and song count, but even if you included that info, there is still a tremendous amount of wasted space.

You can almost fit the artist, album and song count three times in the designated area for one artist. 

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I’m seeing less than half the number of artists I used to see. That means more scrolling, and less time listening to music. 

Album view isn’t much better. In iOS 6 you got album art, the name of the album and the artist. You also got 9 albums per screen. On iOS 7, still 4, still half the information in iOS 6.

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Look, I don’t ask for much. And I actually do appreciate the additional data provided in Album and Artist view, but there is still a tremendous amount of wasted space. Shrink those albums down to the size they were on iOS 6, and really maximize the information you can present.

-Creighton

(Sorry for the lack of a full Album list. It was very difficult to get the screenshots of iOS 6 on a 4inch iPhone/iPod touch. Thank you to Katherine and Alex who sent me screenshots of from their iOS 6, devices.)

TWO WEEKS WITH THE LUMIA 1020

Recently I ran an experiment. I would try Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 1020 for 14 days. If I hated it, I could return it (for a 30 dollar restocking fee at an ATT store). If I was able to accomplish work and life I’d keep it.

I chose a specific 14 days (August 24 - Sept 6) because it overlapped with a shoot day that I already did most of the prep for, and a weekend trip to a city I’m not familiar with (Boston).

I’ve been intrigued by Windows Phone, and specifically the Lumia line, since it launched. And when the 1020 launched with it’s 41 megapixel camera, I kind of fell in love. It’s always tough switching operating systems (I’ve been on iOS since 2007) so I’ve been hesitant to make a 2 year (who am I kidding I buy a new phone every year) 1 year commitment. 

FIRST DAYS

I started this experiment far more enthusiastic than skeptical. I have been sold pretty hard on the idea of Windows 8 and Windows Phone. I get what they’re trying to do, and I want to be part of it. I am way into the idea of ditching my iPhone, and using something new. 

I spent much of the first two days downloading apps. I’d use the phone, realize something was missing, download an app. I would say half the time there was an official app for something I wanted, and half the time there was some bootlegged app that (actually) works just as well. There was a lot of “I’ll pull that up on dropbox, oh I need a dropbox app.” And then I’d try a couple before settling on one.

It took some time to understand the UI language and decide on a home screen layout that worked best. At first I didn’t have any people on my home screen, but discovered how much faster keeping your most texted, emailed, called contacts on your home screen is. It’s something I wish my iPhone had. At a glance it can tell you who has contacted you. You can see in the picture that Matt has sent me two messages and Steve has sent me one. I don’t know if they are texts or emails or a combination, but knowing who is trying to get in touch with me, can be valuable.

Taking 5: Vine / Instagram Video

Yesterday Facebook announced Instagram Video. And while I’ve only insta’d one gram, and I’ve only vine’d two Vines, I was really excited about it.

I was intrigued by Vine when it launched in January. But after trying several times to use it I had to put it away. It didn’t really click with me, and I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to shoot a quick video. But I understand its impact. Vine ushered in a wave of gif and video apps that use hold-to-record, something that looks good on paper, but in practice it makes the phone harder to hold and leads directly to shakier video. It also used the whole screen as the record button, breaking ‘tap to focus,’ a fundamental paradigm of iOS… but I digress.

It was obvious to me that Vine wasn’t going to get better on its own. At the rate that Vine was gaining traction it was going to take a company as big as Facebook to create some real competition, and drive innovation. So when the rumors started earlier this week about video being added to Instagram, I started to get excited.

Having now used both, I’m a little bummed. I think Instagram video is better than Vine, but only marginally. It’s really just Vine 2.0. You can delete a clip if you don’t like it. It has tap to focus, and you press (and hold) somewhere else to record. It feels more like a camera (and, as you know, I’m an expert in iPhone cameras). You can add filters. And, yes, videos are longer (15 seconds in stead of 6 but that doesn’t matter to me).

It’s basically everything I would change in Vine, if someone approached me saying “here’s our app, help us clean up some things.” There isn’t really anything new that Instagram is bringing to the table.

Here’s my hangup. What I think makes Instagram great, and the thing that I think made it catch on, is sharing. Instagram allows you to take a photo, that you’ve taken anywhere, and and quickly share it across multiple platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram itself. It is the one app you can use to get your 1:1 photo everywhere. It made it easy to fire off some photos and then share them quickly. Sharing was the secret sauce to Instagram, not it’s ability to take a picture.

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iOS 7 - Fears and Feature Requests

It’s been two years since I put my thoughts together about improvements for my mobile operating of choice. Apple’s WWDC keynote is Monday and we are going to get our first look at Jony Ive’s vision of iOS. But as I said a few weeks ago on Twitter, I am a little fearful that all we are going to get is a design overhaul.

Look we all know that Jony Ive is a very talented designer. He can keep himself laser focused on a vision and execute. Absolutely. But my fear is that all we’re going to get is a redesign. Yes, iOS does feel a little dated, especially compared to Windows Phone, but cleaning up some features and adding others is actually more important to me than a design overhaul.

My fear is that due to the limited time Ive has had with the OS (roughly 7 months) we’re just going to get something shiny that doesn’t increase functionality and productivity. And really, that’s what I need out of an OS and my applications. A smarter, faster OS that makes me more productive is where I’m going to be most happy.

I’m not saying that we aren’t going to get both. I’m just worried that there wasn’t enough time to have both. A pretty OS with the same features is kind of meh, to me.

Ok, all that said. I’ve got a list of 7 feature requests for iOS 7. Here goes:

Xbox One

Ok, here it is. I’ve been struggling to put words on paper about the Xbox One. I find I meander, I pull references, figures and I get off track.

I don’t want to talk about my cord cutting, or the history of streaming boxes, and I really don’t want to talk about how Microsoft has been after the living room for years or that Media Center PCs have been around for decades - that’s not the point. It’s this:

Microsoft has made a really compelling set top box.

It’s not a gaming console, it’s also a gaming console. It’s kind of the thing that people have been using in scifi for, what feels like, forever. Saying “xbox, [command]” into an empty room is actually something out of Star Trek. And we’ll have it, seemingly, very functional and standard on every box is great. Pulling up a another task on your TV while browser window while you’re watching a movie is actually science fiction. 

So, while the Xbox One reveal might be Microsoft graduating the from gaming console to full on set top home computer, I’m ok with that. I’m a nerd. That’s something I want.

PlayStation 4: Putting The Gamer At The Center

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Obviously the biggest news from Sony’s PS4 announcement was that they never actually showed their new console. Fine. But what about what they did show.  Now that we’re more than 18 hours removed from the conference, and I’ve watched it again, I think I can wade through all the noise. Ready? Ok.

First, I don’t care how many developers Sony had on stage or which games they were showing off. The console isn’t out yet, so we have absolutely no idea what the games will look like, or what the hardware is actually capable of (yes we have specs but specs don’t mean anything).

We don’t know what it will look like, but we know what it will feel like.

Right at the top of the show, not 5 minutes in, Andrew House said:

"The living room is no longer the center of the playstation ecosystem, the gamer is.… With mobility and the ability to share content and experiences becoming an increasingly important part of the gaming experience, connectivity between devices and the ease with which they connect has been essential to meeting the demands of today’s casual or core gamer."

While we didn’t see what the box looks like, Sony did show us a new controller. They’re calling it the DualShock 4 and it looks like a DualShock 3 with an added touchpad along the top.

But forget the touchpad for a second, the most interesting part of the new controller is a share button. Yes, nestled right in between the D-pad and the touchpad is a button labeled ‘share.’ The share button can capture the video on your screen and broadcast what you’re doing to your friends. They’ve baked in live streaming capabilities via UStream.

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They also alluded to the PS4 hooking into existing social networks to enhance your experience. I can imagine something like starting a live broadcast and tweeting the link. Or making a Facebook post of a video you’ve recorded.

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Why Don’t We Remake Books?

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I watched The Firm the other day. I hadn’t seen it and something just compelled me to watch it. When I searched for it on Amazon Instant two results came up. The first was the one directed by Sidney Pollack starring Tom Cruise that came out in 1993. The other was something from 2012. I obviously wanted to watch the 1993 version.

As the opening credits rolled they read “based upon the book by John Grisham” and I struck with a nagging thought – this movie was remade and updated for the 2012 version, but the book was never changed.

Why don’t we remake books?

It’s an interesting question for which I don’t really have an answer. We remake every other form of entertainment but for some reason we don’t remake books. What do I mean when I say “remake”? Great question. It means different things in each form of entertainment.

Movies are notorious for remakes. We see them all the time, and I’ve talked about this before, but remakes are almost as old as movies themselves. Rebooting a franchise might be considered a remake, that’s a case by case thing. The film industry thrives on remaking movies and it’s hard to imagine a world without remakes.

We call remakes of songs “cover songs” or “covers.” I don’t know how song remakes got their own word, but at some point it happened. Some covers become so popular that they surpass the original recordings popularity (Clapton’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Knocking on Heavens Door,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Along The Watch Tower” come to mind immediately but I grew up on classic rock). Just like in film I can’t really imagine a world without covers. (It’s worth noting that there are some great Tumblrs dedicated to cover songs. My favorite is Copy Cats.)

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