Quiet month...

...in the sense that I've failed to post anything here; the "daily habit" is clearly falling short.

Not that its been quiet in real life. I've fallen off my bike, built a lego Death Star, my job has changed (in terms of my objectives/role - all the "big" stuff like employer, title etc. have stayed the same).

I'm thinking that this "sub-blog" should probably be considered a failed experiment...

The Trailer

The Dark Side… the Jedi… they're real.

I think the most interesting thing about the Star Wars trailer is the idea of bringing back the "mythology" stuff. Not the "Heroes Journey" stuff- the idea that the Jedi are a forgotten myth.

Not only that, but the Han Solo reply to "there are stories about what happened" — the idea that the original Star Wars films are the same kind of stories and legends than the Jedi were in the original films (ie. the legends that the prequels revealed as something different to what we imagined…)

One of my favourite things about the original film is that idea that within the space of a generation, the Jedi could be forgotten. But that was a film where the Force was very much an invisible energy field - someone could see it at work in front of their eyes (like Han Solo in the training scene on the Falcon) and still not believe in it — before it turned into something much more physical in Empire Strikes Back.

I'd love it if we got through the sequels without any telekenesis…

(Not) Getting Things Done

Its just occurred to me that a typical day in the office of sitting at my desk and juggling simultaneous email conversations in 2015 feels remarkably similar to wasting time juggling chatroom or forum threads in ~2000. (Which is what we called "social networking" when we only knew who we were talking to by pseudonyms.)

It still doesn't feel like actually working. But now, it looks to the untrained observer something very much like "work".

Amazon declares war?

Amazon are to stop selling Apple TV.

OK, they are also stopping Chromecast sales too - but its the Amazon/Apple relationship I find interesting. I think Amazon see themselves as a kind of "Google in a parallel dimension" kind of player - everything Google does is about a free and open internet (free and open to Google). But Amazon would quite happily have a bunch of content (films, books, TV programmes etc. etc.) paywalled off from the rest of the internet.

Apple, on the other hand, seems like more of an Amazon nemesis. Like Google, Amazon could be enormously threatened by an Apple monopoly. In fact, I would guess that the whole point of the Fire phone was ultimately the same as Android - but aiming to fill a gap where Android's free/open strategy was threatening to open up (ie. at the high end where Apple dominates.) It was a pretty clear failure, so Amazon have abandoned the strategy. (And lets face it, the damage was done back when they were fighting over having a "buy" button in the Kindle app without letting Apple set the rules over how in-app purchases should work.)

But the Apple TV thing seems a bit weird. When Apple announced the new Apple TV would be a more open platform with an app store etc., the obvious thing for Amazon to do would be to build an Amazon Prime app to let their subscribers watch their content on their Apple TV boxes. Instead of saying "no, we aren't doing that" — or maybe rather, instead of just saying no, they are saying that not only aren't they playing with Apple's boxes, and they aren't going to be stocking and selling Apple's boxes, and they aren't going to let anyone sell Apple's boxes in their marketplace.

Seems a surprisingly bold statement to me. (The NYT says it mirrors Apple's refusal to allow Netflix onto the Apple TV platform - which must have been from before I can remember. Must have been before their UK launch.)

But the bottom line of all this is that the future isn't going to be one smart box connected to one dumb TV. Its going to be a bunch of things connected to some sort of dream box that makes it all manageable. But still connected to a dumb TV...

Ad blockers top App Store chart - Mobile World Live

Well, fancy that. Let people block advertising and tracking, and people will do it.

I've been following the debate for a while (obviously), and I think the interesting thing isn't just the fact that people are happy to block display advertising, but that they are happy to hand over cash to do it.

One thing I am slightly confused by is that Safari switches off 3rd party cookies by default. So, shouldn't tracking be switched off by default too? Think I need to look into that…


…should probably be a Tumblr blog, really.

Squarespace is good for a lot of things, but quick posts isn't one of them. This is the process on the desktop;

  1. Open website dashboard
  2. Select "Pages"
  3. Scroll down and select the "scribbles" blog
  4. Click "+" to start a new post
  5. Double click into the actual post to open a text editor window.

By my count, thats about 4 more steps than I would really like...

Or, there is the bookmarklet, which is pretty good for linked posts (even if I do have to remember to either tick a box to actually make it a linked post, or delete the link if I don't want the original web page I clicked from to be in the CMS doing… well, whatever it is that it does if a non-linked post has a source URL attached to it…)

But its the iPhone app that is really bugging me. For some reason, the text is constantly scrolling up to the top of the page, then back down to wherever I am – so I'm not actually reading what I'm typing about 80% of the time.

I can't really remember why I went off Tumblr - if it was something to do with Tumblr itself (I know it had the Google problem of not dealing well with multiple accounts, but I don't think that was a major irritation the way that Gmail/YouTube can be) or just because I stopped posting in general. But I think its time to dip my toe back into that particular pool…

Dangerous men

I saw this video this morning 1.

It made me wonder - if Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable, what is it that makes him so dangerous?

I don't recall Cameron ever attacking Nigel Farage or Nick Griffin like that. It would have been weird if he had, because it would have implied that he was taking them more seriously than they deserved.

So what is it that makes JC such a danger?

  1. Which was since taken down - but there is a mirror of it here

If you see a stylus...

Steve Jobs on tablets with styluses;

If you see a stylus, they blew it.

Tim Cook, on Steve Jobs;

More so than any person I ever met in my life, he had the ability to change his mind, much more so than anyone I’ve ever met. He could be so sold on a certain direction and in a nanosecond (Cook snaps his fingers) have a completely different view. (Laughs.) I thought in the early days, “Wow, this is strange.” Then I realized how much of a gift it was. So many people, particularly, I think, CEOs and top executives, they get so planted in their old ideas, and they refuse or don’t have the courage to admit that they’re now wrong. Maybe the most underappreciated thing about Steve was that he had the courage to change his mind. And you know—it’s a talent.

(He also had some thoughts on 7 inch tablets before the iPad mini.)

Suggested phone

I've bought an iPhone 3G, an iPhone 4, and an iPhone 5s, all from O2. You would think that they have a pretty good idea of what phone I'm likely to want next…

So when I went in to the O2 app on my iPhone to see what sort of upgrade options, I was suprised to see their suggestion that I would want to upgrade my iPhone 5S to… An iPhone 5s.

Removing already imported photos from an iPhone

This is something that I can't quite believe Apple haven't fixed.

As far as I can tell, this is a reasonable kind of workflow;

  1. Take photos on iPhone
  2. Photos are uploaded to iCloud, and downloaded to the Photos app on the Mac.
  3. Plug in iPhone - Photos lets you import photos that haven't already been imported, or import photos that have already been imported again. And there is an option to delete items after import.

I don't want to import items that have already been imported. But I do want to delete photos from my iPhone (16 gigabytes simply isn't enough space any more – anyone considering buying a new phone, take note!)

Turns out, you can delete photos from your iPhone pretty easily using one of OSX's built-in apps called Image Capture.

Very handy to know…

C3P0's limbs

In the new Star Wars film, C3P0 will have a red arm. Apparently there will be a comic book that explains why/how it happened.

Meanwhile, the reason he had a silver leg in the original two films (but not Return of the Jedi) remains a mystery…


When your job is to look at what people are saying about the Apple event, it puts a bit of a different spin on the usual "checking out what your next phone is probably going to be like" routine…

Daring Fireball: Prelude to Tomorrow's 'Hey Siri' Apple Event in San Francisco

I'm going to go against the grain: I don't think Apple Watch is going to get a lot of time at this event.

  1. The ludicrously expensive gold watch: It was weird that it was exactly the same internally as the cheapest Sport model, and got a lot of flak under the assumption that it would be a $10k paperweight in a couple of years. I think that was a flawed assumption – I think Apple expects the internals of the Apple Watch to stay the same for longer. While iPhones, iPads and Macbooks get thinner and lighter with every revision as well as more powerful, I suspect that the Apple Watch is going to be locked down in terms of technical specs; any changes are going to be in changing the form factor; either thinner and lighter (maybe) or more battery (more likely, IMHO.)
  2. The software updates were already announced to the software developers as WWDC. I don't think there is anything new to announce on that front.

So my bet; maybe 5 minutes talking about how great it is, how awesome the new apps are going to be. Maybe some new colours/straps. But no big Apple Watch news.

Ultimately, this isn't about a computer on your wrist. Its a watch; a piece of jewelery with a computer inside it. Until it becomes powerful enough to break free of the 'real' computing power that its tethered to (something that took the iPhone until iOS 5) and we see a genuine "version 2", I don't think Apple are going to be in a rush to push new hardware features out on the platform.

Kill or Be Killed: the serious art of being funny — Always for Love — Medium

An interesting look at comedy, and the point of it all.

There is something about the idea of stand-up comedy that is utterly timeless; its the surviving thread of the oral tradition, which is something that was almost — but not quite — killed off by the written and printed word (which flipped the importance from who was telling the story to who came up with the idea for the story in the first place.)

Of course, among comedians — that is, the joke-tellers — the idea of a joke belonging to someone is important. (After all, there is a whole industry that revolves around paid writers giving material to well-known performers.) There was a bit of a fuss about it a few years ago when high profile comedians were tweeting other people's jokes without giving any credit. (It seems that Twitter care about this too, but probably for reasons to do with spam prevention rather than crediting comedians.)

I think the internet has a weird effect, in that it pushes away from the "author" and towards the "teller" — or rather, aggregator. Make a funny GIF and you might get some retweets. Make a listicle of funny GIFs and you can have a serious business on your hands. Complaining about theft of content (or "intellectual property") online is always going to be an uphill struggle, I suppose.

A mish-mash of thoughts about the new Apple TV

A post that I doubt I'm going to get a chance to write up properly ahead of the Apple event this week. In other words, exactly the kind of thing I set up this sideblog thing for.

Apparently, Apple are planning to launch a new Apple TV box, with a completely redesigned remote. I wonder what the new interface is going to look like – presumably an iOS7 (well, iOS9, technically) themed overhaul is well overdue.

But a touchpad, rather than a touchscreen seems like a peculiar choice – I'm guessing that it will essentially be the same as the Remote app, but without all of the "other stuff" that a second screen enables. So, it sounds like the Remote app will still be technically better. (Unless, that is, it is a genuinely new interface paradigm and Siri does the job.)

Apple TV was launched at the same time as the original iPhone, but while the iPhone has moved forward in leaps and bounds, the Apple TV hasn't seen much in terms of developemnt and features. OK, so the original vision was of something like an iPod for video (a hard drive that you could put files from your computer onto and watch them at your leisure), which was changed to an internet streaming device in 2010.

But its still an ageing device – you get the feeling that the reason the hardware was upgraded was because of cost savings with the iPhone CPU manufacture, rather than to enable new features.

YouTube revised its API a few months ago, which led to the YouTube app disappearing from the V2 Apple TV. You can still stream it from an Airplay-enabled device, and the app has been updated for the V3 box. It seems strangely careless to just leave it off the older models – a sign that nobody cares, or that software engineers had their hands full with a higher priority (more likely to be iOS9 than the Apple TV 2's YouTube app)?

So I gues the big question for me is whether my ageing 2nd gen Apple TV is going to need upgrading to carry on doing what I want to do (watch Netflix, YouTube and films from iTunes), or if the new one is going to do new things that I will need to upgrade if I want to do them (which seems like its probably going to consist of Siri and an App Store.)

Past posts on the Apple TV topic;

This is when I was obsessed by the Apple TV UI, and expecting to see Apple refining and refreshing it on a regular basis as they played with their "hobby". (I mean, what is the point of calling something a "hobby" if you don't ever spend any time with it?)

I think by this point, I had realised that what Apple wanted to do with the Apple TV and what I wanted someone to sell me for my living room were actually quite different devices.

Google By the Letters — Backchannel — Medium

This is the best piece on the Google/Alphabet thing I've seen.

I wonder if the point of the restructure is more personal. If I had accidentally built Google's advertising business out of a way to organise the information on the internet, I imagine that my personal interests would have moved on from the ad industry. I wonder if Alphabet's structure would make it possible for Google to sell off Google? Or at least, selling the co-founder's controlling shares in Google itself, leaving them with the rest of Alphabet to play with?

But its the point Steven Levy makes about how well the different Google pieces will be able to benefit from one another (or how Google will be able to benefit from developments in, say, Nest) that I find a bit troubling.

And I wonder why Android remains a part of Google? Surely divorcing the platform from the ad business would only be a good thing for consumer trust, China etc.?

Speaking of punctuation...

This is a beautiful piece of writing about writing.

From a powerful opening;

The Wired style guide changed my life. One particular sentence, in fact.

But language theory/usage/pedantry issues aside, there's something about the idea of the guide the author remembers vs. the actual document that I find interesting.

I think this is the key paragraph;

To my teenage self, it was like being handed a crystal ball and a lever with which to move the world at the same time. You mean that I could anticipate the direction that language change would happen in, and help push it there even faster? The power was intoxicating. I was sold — and I’ve written email and internet ever since, with the security of knowing that, if my choices were ever questioned, I could calmly reply “You see, it’s because I follow the Wired style guide.”
(No one has ever questioned me on these choices. It seems that teenage!Gretchen slightly overestimated the number of duels that adults were expected to fight on matters of punctuation.)

If the point of a style guide is to codify and formalise a writing style, but the central idea is that Wired's style should be at the forefront of a rapidly changing language, it could only ever be a disappointment to revisit in the future and see the glaring mistakes. (I have a small collection of books that talked about the growth of internet advertising and talked far too much about "portals" while completely overlooking the inportance of search engines.)

Uber 2.0

Its no secret that Uber's plans for the future involve replacing drivers (the thing that takes most of the cost of a taxi today) with self-driving cars, so the cost of using an Uber becomes cheaper than the cost of owning a car.

Its a bit like Netflix; the bueinss started out as a DVD rental, but the plan was always to be an online streaming service.

It puts an interesting spin on the idea of market disruption; taxi services are being disrupted by Uber today, even though they are effectively the same kind of business. But Uber's advantage — building a business ready for a transition that is still on the horizon — hasn't even come into play yet.

Yes, we are the product — but what’s the problem? | Andrew McAfee

I think the issue here is that its the wrong question. It isn't "whats the problem?", but "whats the alternative?"

If you want to be the customer, you have to pay for the product.

(As an aside, I think McAfee might be overestimating people's intelligence. I've seen too many rumours being circulated about Facebook starting to charge users, or studies about consumers not understanding how Search advertising works – and if you don't understand Search advertising, then you don't understand Google's business at all.)


I don't know why, but I have become a bit obsessed by certain punctuation; mainly, the difference between different kinds of dashes. A well designed, comprehensive font will have different dashes for a hyphen, em-dash, en-dash, minus sign and figure dash.

I don't know who is really expected to know the difference between them all, other than whoever is doing the writing and typesetting…