Steve Ballmer's Second Act

Steve Ballmer has built something that sounds really cool and useful: a database that tracks what the government does with our money. The Times write-up makes it sound fascinating:

"Want to know how many police officers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates? Want to know how much revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect? Want to know what percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it? That’s in there. You can slice the numbers in all sorts of ways.
Mr. Ballmer calls it “the equivalent of a 10-K for government,” referring to the kind of annual filing that companies make."

Ballmer's publishing the data and a report some time today at USAFacts.org

 

iPad Pro Screen Dimensions

My next computer purchase will be an iPad Pro. I'll use it mostly for drawing. I love my iPad Air 9.7", but for drawing the 12.9" feels like a much better fit. Obviously that's because it's bigger, and it can use the Apple Pencil. But the size is not just bigger, it's also much closer to the size of paper, at least the sort of paper I typically use for drawing. This makes it feel much more natural as a drawing tool, which I confirmed with an in-person test at an Apple Store.

The paper size I usually use for drawing is 9"x12". The body of the iPad Pro 12.9 measures 8.69"x12.04". This is very close to my paper size. The screen, measured diagonally, is 12.9". But finding the actual screen dimensions — in inches — has been nigh impossible, so I thought I'd note it here and save future Googlers the hassle of figuring it out.

And so: The approximate screen width and height of the iPad Pro 12.9's screen is 7.75"x10.35".

Also, for reference, the iPad Pro 9.7 screen dimensions: 5.85"x7.75"

That's What I was Thinking

A few links from the Department of OMG! I Was Thinking Exactly the Same Thing!!!

Khoi Vinh is not so enamored with the aesthetics of the latest iPhones:

The iPhone 5’s lines are sophisticated and modern; each bevel or corner or detail seems unique, well considered and essential. I still marvel at its beauty when I hold it in my hands.
By contrast, the iPhone 6’s form seems uninspired, harkening back to the dated-looking forms of the original iPhone, and barely managing to distinguish itself from the countless other phones that have since aped that look.

I couldn't agree more. When rumor sites were publishing these images I thought, "These can't possibly be the finished designs." But they were. Sorry, but those antennae are, if not downright ugly, certainly sub-par for an Apple product.

Allen Pike is not happy with the lack of clarity in shift key activation in iOS 7 and above:

When the shift key is on, it blends in with the letter keys. When it’s off, it blends in with the function keys. Neither state sticks out enough to read as active, especially in a split second.

This has been driving me up a wall as well, and I'm relived to find I'm not alone. To my way of thinking, the shift key activation appearance is backwards. And I find it almost impossible to learn a backwards thing, but even more so when it's placed within — and reinforced by — a field of not-backwards things. Such is the current state of the iOS shift key, and it is maddening. Pike's solution, though, is inspired.

Russel Ivanovic is displeased with the rapid pace of Apple OS releases at the expense of stability and reliability:

I just wish that Apple would slow down their breakneck pace and spend the time required to build stable software that their hardware so desperately needs. The yearly release cycles of OS X, iOS, iPhone & iPad are resulting in too many things seeing the light of day that aren’t finished yet. Perhaps the world wouldn’t let them, perhaps the expectations are now too high, but I’d kill for Snow iOS 8 and Snow Yosemite next year. I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in that feeling.

Don't get me wrong, I like iOS 8. But since upgrading, apps crash with alarming regularity. Even FileMaker Go 13, which I'm now using all the time, and which, for my purposes, requires a login at each launch, and which is owned by Apple, crashes with hair-pullingly annoying frequency. I, too, long for the days of Snow Leopard, a release whose focus was on efficiency and stability. It was quite possibly the most rock-solid OS release I've ever used. And it was glorious. 

Even Gruber's bugged by this unreliability:

(Just today: My iPhone 6 rebooted after I changed the home screen wallpaper. Tapped a new image in the wallpaper settings, and poof, it rebooted. Worse, it never stopped rebooting. Endless reboot cycle. Now I’m doing a full restore with iTunes. After changing my wallpaper to a different image.)

Which makes it an almost mainstream gripe.

 

Email is Cool Again

Well, I've been saying this for a while now, so it's good to see it finally catch on in the mainstream media. No, email is not broken, it was never broken. But now email seems to be cool again.

This week Gruber linked to this Atlantic article singing the praises of email. And today I came across another article on Tech Crunch about email newsletters that also places email in high regard:

"But beyond all that, it feels like an admission that the Internet went horribly wrong somewhere along the way. Google+, Tumblr and Facebook Groups felt like a tacit admission that the web had taken a wrong turn somewhere around Friendster and was finding its way back to LiveJournal."

I kind of love this article, especially this last sentiment, because it's how I've been feeling lately about the Internet in general and social media in particular. Like it's all just gone too far and crossed over from being an insanely useful tool to being a silly, pointless distraction. 

I think I'm ready for Web 3.0.

In the meantime, there's email. Good old, rock steady, mine-all-mine email. Which just keeps getting better.