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.

Robot Names

Why are robot names, by and large, so bad? It seems like it wouldn't be that hard to come up with some cool ones, or at least some not awful ones. Instead we get names that are downright embarrassing to say out loud. They sound pseudo-futuristic and ridiculous, or like something out of a bad fantasy novel. Here are some examples.

Horrible Robot Names


There have been, to my memory, only two decent, usable robot names.

Cool Robot Names

  • Computer (the  LCARS system from Star Trek, but they always just called it "Computer")
  • HAL

Seriously, those last two are the only ones I wouldn't feel idiotic addressing directly, with words issuing forth from my mouth, in a public setting. The rest? Feh! "Okay, Glass?" Really?

If we're to start using voice activated assistants and robots in our daily lives, I think we need to do a better job of making the process more natural and less awkward. You'd think the naming of the thing would be the first and easiest place to start. Apparently not.

Ditching Gmail for Fastmail

This has been a long time coming, but I'm finally trying the 60-day free trial of Fastmail. And so far, I'm loving it.

Screenshot 2014-07-12 12.24.20.png

To be clear, I'm not completely ditching Gmail; I'm taking a graduated approach. So I still have all my Gmail addresses, and they're still doing all their spam filtering and what-not. But all my Gmail is now getting forwarded to Fastmail. I'm also using, for the first time ever, my own domains via Fastmail, which is awesome and one of my primary motivations for switching. So eventually Gmail will get phased out in favor of my personalized domains names.

Screenshot 2014-07-12 13.36.21.png

Some of the great things Fastmail offers:

  • A terrific browser-based interface
    I prefer managing email in the browser rather than using a local email client, and Fastmail's web interface on my Mac and in iOS is actually better than Gmail's for my needs. One of my favorite features is the lack of paging. Fastmail has infinite scrolling of your email, so you don't have to keep hitting a "back" button to see your email history.
  • Speed
    Fastmail's web interface is also super fast and responsive. I never realized how slow Gmail's interface actually was until I used Fastmail. 
  • Control
    Fastmail offers tons of features — like forwarding, aliases, personalities, and of course virtual domains — that let me set up my mail just the way I want it to work.
  • Import
    Fastmail will import your Gmail into a standard folder hierarchy in your Fastmail account. Very useful for switchers like me.
  • Export
    Fastmail lets you download any email folder to a .ZIP archive on your computer. The contents of this archive are EML files, which are basically text files that can be read by any email application, or by plain text readers. Very handy! 
  • Mass Email Management
    You can also mass delete whole email folders and search, flag and delete duplicates.
  • An "Unread" view
    View only your unread messages — shockingly not offered in Gmail.
  • Excellent Search
    Fastmail's search, so far, has even proven superior to Gmail's, surprisingly. There are tons of operators, and searches are fast and savable. Yes, savable searches! Since Fastmail lacks Gmail's labels, I'm using searches instead. And so far I think it's preferable. I now rely less on organization through labels, which I never really used to find things anyway, and simply save searches of my flat archive. Simple and super flexible to boot! This is email organization after the fact, and I think it's a great way to do it.
  • IMAP
    It may seem unimportant, but Fastmail uses vanilla IMAP, and this offers some big advantages over Gmail's weirdo IMAP implementation. The main one, for me, is that when iOS's Mail app is set up using IMAP, I can set it to send mail using any "from" address I specify. You can do that in Gmail's browser, and in Gmail's hideous iOS client, but not in Mail that's been set up for Gmail. This is kind of a big deal for me.
  • Calendar
    Fastmail's calendar is great as well, and also features the same infinite scrolling you find in the email view. It also uses CalDAV for sharing, and, of course, can import all my shared Google Calendars. And the inline event editing is maybe the best I've seen — on a browser or on the desktop.
Really Nice Inline Calendar Event Editing! 

Really Nice Inline Calendar Event Editing! 

So what's missing from Fastmail? Not much! There are really only two things, and one is purported to be coming soon:

  • CardDAV
    Fastmail currently lacks CardDAV, which is, in my estimation, the best way for sharing your contacts among your various devices and services. But according to the Fastmail team, it's in the works. Once that's available, I'll almost certainly switch over completely to Fastmail.
  • Undo Send
    This has become my number one favorite Gmail feature. I don't know why this feature is not ubiquitous, because it's awesome, and seems like it would be fairly easy to implement. Alas, it does not exist in Fastmail, and I don't know that it ever will.

I should mention, too, that with Fastmail you're a paying customer, and I've heard very good things about their support. Support for Gmail, beyond online help pages, is non-existent as far as I know. And as a paying customer, you have the ear of the company and can request features. So who knows? Maybe some day we'll get Undo Send after all.

In any case, so far, with Fastmail I'm able to finally set up email on all my devices — Mac, iPhone, iPad — just the way I like it. It's really nice. If you've been thinking about switching from Gmail to something else, Fastmail is definitely worth checking out. After less than a week's use, I'm pretty confident I'll be signing up as a paid customer when my trial ends. It's really that good.