October 2011 Archives

October 30, 2011



Your daughter is halfway up the wall when you decide it’s too dangerous, that she’s going to fall. There’s a rope and some widely spaced footholds, made, it looks to you, for kids much older, much bigger.

You tell her to come down, that her legs just won’t reach. She glances down and says that she’s too high, that going back will be more dangerous and you see that she’s right. You tell her okay. You tell her to be careful for the hundredth time that day and you know she’s not even listening but you say the words anyway.

You see her right leg stretch out, searching for the next foothold. Not quite there. She tries again and finds it. In a single motion she pulls herself up on the rope, pushes with all her strength in her right foot, grabs the top of the wall and steadies herself. Moments later she is over and climbing quickly down the rope netting on the other side and you start to breathe again.

You tell her how well she did but you she’s already forgotten about the wall. There’s another obstacle up ahead, one that looks even more treacherous. You tell her not to run, to be careful and you know she’s not even listening but you say the words anyway.

October 25, 2011

Mlkshk's Keyboard Shortcuts

Mlkshk is one of the sites I most enjoy visiting these days. It’s kind of like Twitter but for images. There are a couple of differences though:

  • Almost every post is funny or interesting. Every time I visit, I come away smiling.
  • There’s almost no spam. The site’s creators, Andre Torrez and Amber Costley, take a rather more vigorous approach to keeping the site spam free than the folk at Twitter. In six months of regular use I’ve come across no spambot followers and seen only one spam comment on a post. I mentioned it to them on Twitter and the comment was gone in seconds.

One thing I’ve found a little frustrating is that there are only ten images displayed on each page. That can lead to quite a lot of clicking to see older pictures. I asked them about this, hoping there was a setting somewhere that would let me see more images, and found out about something even better, keyboard shortcuts.

  • j: scrolls to the next image. If you’re at the end of the page it will load the next page.
  • k: scrolls to the previous image.
  • h: scrolls to the end of the page.
  • l: scrolls to the top of the page.

These, in the short time I’ve used them, have made Mlkshk a lot smoother to use. I can just use ‘j’ to flip through images and load new pages without even thinking about being at the end of a page. It’s pretty neat.

While I was writing this I tried out these shortcuts on a couple of other sites and found that they also work on Stellar. ‘j’ and ‘k’ work on Twitter, too.

Oh, and if you enjoy using Mlkshk you should go ahead and switch to a paid account.

October 23, 2011

Turkish Dancers

Turkish Dancers

October 21, 2011

Be Careful with Phonetic Names

Recently Shawn Blanc (and John Gruber) noted that adding phonetic name fields to your contacts made it easier for Siri to understand and say their names.

What they didn’t mention is that adding information to these fields will almost certainly mess up the sorting of your contact list.

To understand why, you need to understand their intended function.

They are there to aid with the sorting of Japanese and Chinese names. That’s why they don’t show up by default when using English as the system language. (Oddly, they can’t even be added if you’re using British English.)

I don’t know much about Chinese, but most Japanese names are made up of two or more kanji characters. Each of these characters can be read in a number of ways. Just looking at the name does not tell you how to read it. There are a few names that use the same kanji but are pronounced very differently. Your computer or phone uses the information in the phonetic name fields to work out what the names sound like and how to sort them. They are usually written in hiragana or katakana, the two phonetic Japanese scripts. When your iPhone sorts your contact list, information in these fields will override the information in the regular name fields.

A messed up contact list may be a reasonable price to pay for a smoother Siri experience but you should be aware of it before you go adding phonetic information to all your contacts.

October 9, 2011

Osaka Apple Store Memorial

Memorial to Steve Jobs outside Osaka Apple Store

While I was in Shinsaibashi this afternoon I stopped by the Apple Store. As in many other cities there is a little memorial to Steve Jobs set up just outside. It looks like they’ve been cleaning it up each day. All the apples that were there when my friend stopped by on Friday are gone. What you see here was placed there just today.

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

October 1, 2011

Amazon's 2011 Kindles

I was quite happy with Amazon’s new Kindles. They moved the product forward a little but not so much as to make my three month old Kindle 3 look ridiculous.

  • Very happy that they still have one with page-turn buttons. That, for me and my ever-oily fingers, is one of the things that makes reading on a Kindle more pleasant than on an iPhone or iPad. I agree with everything Lukas Mathis says on this point.
  • Also pleased that they got rid of the keyboard. That said, the keyboard on my Kindle only bothers me when I think about it, which I never do when using it.
  • Surprised that there were no enhancements to the resolution or page turn speed of the E Ink displays. This is the one thing that would have tempted me to upgrade. Next year perhaps. Update (10-5): According to Jason Snell the page turn is actually noticeably faster.
  • I was disappointed, but hardly surprised that they didn’t announce the feature I most want: a remote page turner. That would be, if I were to design it, a tiny device that you hold in your hand. One button. Press it to go forwards. If you want to go back you actually have to reach out and touch the screen. This would be great for reading while walking on a treadmill or lying stomach-down.

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