∅ the empty set

Debug 47: what an amazing episode

Debug

Gee, I haven't enjoyed a podcast episode this much for a long time!

Debug 47: Melton & Ganatra episode I: Demoing software to Steve Jobs” is a first hand insightful episode on how it was to work at Apple from a directorate/manager level.

I could listen to Don Melton and Nitin Ganatra tell theirs stories for hours. Can't wait for episode two.

Highly recommended.


There's a market for that

Apple store passbook

, Apple launched in Switzerland the latest revision of its smartphones, the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Although I had no intention of standing in line, I did drop by our local Apple Store mid-afternoon to take a look at the new phones and see what the atmosphere was like.

True to the tradition, many people had gathered for the occasion, some as early as 6pm the previous evening. Chatting with an Apple employee, and to my surprise, all models in all configurations were still available, which triggered me to join the line and get my new phone. Hey, why not? It was 3pm and the line wasn't that long anymore. Moreover, I've enjoyed standing in line at previous occasions, and always like that sense of community that prevailed. Somewhat of a cultural thing. An adventure. It makes no sense…

Well, times they are changing. The line was mostly occupied by either scalpers on their 10th round, trying to jump the queue, and slide through to the front of the queue as fast as possible. “Hey, it's business” smiles back a young guy when I make him notice that there was a line and that it might not be that cool to continuously try to slip in front…

The other people around me were in dark suits with trimmed haircuts and grave looks, or hiding behind flashy makeup and fashion sunglasses.

When the Apple employee asks them which iPhone model they intend to purchase, most of them are ignorant of the available options, and end up by ordering the “biggest, and most expensive”.

Apple got that right : “Bigger than bigger”.

I wonder how many of them knows where Apple comes from, and how many care for that matter. Maybe it's just me, refusing to see how things change. As @Ihnatko said last week :

“You should be able to answer to three key questions on Apple's history to have the right to stand in line”
Andy Inhatko

Less that 45 minutes later, I sure walked out of the Store with a new shiny iPhone, but with a sense of loss. Wild consumerism has replaced that feeling of belonging to a community. That community. This was probably the last time I'll stand in line in front of an Apple Store.

Which leads me to think that Apple has golden days in front of it when it'll start selling multi-thousand dollars gold Apple Watches every year… there's a market for that.


iOS 8 Family Sharing lockout

Family sharing lockout

: part of the problem has been fixed. My daughter's lockout was removed (as those of a number of people on internet) and the next update will provide better information on this process. Kudos Apple and Claudine from AppleCare! Additionally, it would seem an extra screen lets you select which account should be used by the new family member when you add him/her, preventing removals when you realize they are using the wrong one… (I don't think this can be changed after).

Apple's Family Sharing in an interesting idea which offers a long wanted way to manage Apple Store purchases within members of a family (among other features).

Up until now, our solution was to each have our own Apple ID for iCloud related tasks (contacts, calendars, backup, etc.), a common Apple ID linked to a credit card for purchases, and a third common account to manage Home Sharing. Not ideal, but it worked.

With iOS 8 and Family Sharing, you can create a Family Group and add your family members to it. The Family Group creator allows the sharing of his credit card with the other members, without the need of sharing his Apple ID and password combo. Each member can purchase with his own Apple ID, and only one credit card is charged.

Additionally, there is also easy photo and calendar sharing, as well as Find my Phone and Find my Friend functionalities.

The caveat is that Apple neglected to warn us that there is a lockout period when you leave a Family Group.

Cannot join family sharing

More precisely,

“[…] You can be part of only one family group at a time, and may only switch to a different family group twice per year. […]” A Guide to Family Sharing

Now, you'll tell me this isn't the first time Apple limits a number of devices/people to access a group or a feature. Think of the maximum of 5 computers that can be authorized at once to download content from a single account on the Apple Store, or the 90 days grace period when switching accounts. But in both cases, you are warned by a dialog box of what is going to happen.

With Family Sharing, add and remove the same member as little as twice (e.g. for testing purposes or because it didn't work the first go) and that account will be locked out for an entire year!

Beyond the unreasonable length of the lockout period, there is no warning before hand! When you attempt to create or remove, either a Family Group or a member, a dialog box should warn you of what will happen!

Granted, Apple published these guidelines on their website, but no one ever wrote about it, which leads me to think no one knew before experimenting with the feature.

I hope they'll come up fast with a fix. Something in the lines of the once a year iTunes computer authorization reset, or at least provide Apple Support and AppleCare with tools to deal with the issue, as of as , support is helpless…

Not only is this a gross UX error on Apple's part, it's emotional. When a family member gets locked out of your Family Group, part of you reacts in a protective, emotional way that goes beyond a shortsighted feature implementation.

Family Sharing is about people.
People you love.
Don't mess with them.

The discussions goes on,


Back from California

Golden Gate

Fighting jet-lag, the head full of amazing images, we're back from California.

Once again, I used Tumblr as a travel weblog to collate pictures and words throughout our trip (with the Publisher theme from Projector Themes).

As I explained in a previous post, it remains the best tool available for this purpose. Paired with IFTTT it aggregated my Swarm (aka Foursquare) check-ins and the few Instagram pictures I crossposted.

The only caveats that come to mind are,

  • Be careful to post in the right blog if you have more than one;
  • On the mobile app, I still can't find where the entries saved as drafts go.

Other than that, it works as a charm. The photosets layout engine was fun to play with both on mobile and in the browser. The online mass post editor turned out useful to assign tags to several posts at once (is this new?).

I love Tumblr.


Retrofitting responsive design

The BIS launched their retrofitted responsive website today. Congratulation to the @BIS_org web team!

This was a project I worked on this Winter throught to Easter. The idea was to preserve as much of the current website as possible while making it responsive to mobile devices.

The challenge was to design a CSS stylesheet with media queries with some custom JavaScript while editing as little of the HTML markup as possible.

The website had been redesigned fairly recently, and they didn't feel the need for a full redesign. There would be no content update or review and no visual design either. They were to stay as is. So over the course of a few workshops in their premises, I made an inventory of the website's components and designed how they should behave at different viewport widths.

Navigation

The main challenges were related to navigation. The main navigation has entries and 3 levels dropdown on the desktop width. That's a lot. This generates long breadcrumbs…

Main nav

This was solved by pulling out the third level navigation. The main menu was display the first and second levels in a expand/collapse fashion, and the third level would be available via a toggle switch when it existed. The best place to put it turned out to be next to the breadcrumb.

On narrow viewports, the breadcrumb was trimmed to display a link to the parent level only. This mimics the back button behaviour and is immediately understandable. For more options on third level links (our current level), expand the third level navigation by clicking on the arrow next to the breadcrumb.

Bis header
Sample02

Navigation: 1st and 2nd levels

Sample03

Navigation: 3rd level

Layout

The three column layout was easily tackled as its content was used systematically throughout the site (second level navigation / main content / aside content). These could easily be linearised.

The search is a important navigation tool and had to be easily reachable whatever screen used. So placing it up the top was the ovious choice. Custom CSS and a sprinkle of JavaScript fixes its behaviour.

Toolbar

The upper right toolbar was the only markup that required a major markup change. Webfonts were used for icons and the whole block was moved down in the page footer. Absolute positioning moves it up on wider viewports.

Otherwise, some custom jQuery, Modernizr, and a couple of IE conditional comments took care of gluing everything together. It was a fun project to work on and the BIS team did a brilliant implementation. Congratulations to all :)


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About

Hello, my name is David Roessli. I am a freelance web designer and developer based in Geneva, Switzerland.

This weblog is an nth attempt to solve my multiple online personalities and weblog/rss feeds burnout issues. (more)

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I have been contemplating the idea of upgrading my desktop Mac since this spring. The latest 27" iMac (Quad-Core) seemed the perfect candidate, but the release of Apple's 27" Monitor last September made me stick with the Mac Pro...

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