Mindsight – Book Recomendation

Read this week and am now re-reading an amazing book called Mindsight, by Dr. Dan Siegel:

https://www.amazon.ca/Mindsight-New-Science-Personal-Tra…/…/

It is a fascinating look at defining what the mind is and how our brains work, through the study of a field called interpersonal neurobiology. Your brain is part of your mind yes, but the mind is also *relational*, and so understanding about your connection to others and how they make you feel is also part of how your mind works. A very different perspective on mental health as it aims to define what makes a healthy mind, rather than pathologizing what might be going on in our inner world. A little new agey but a lot sciency. I really found it quite helpful.

Check it out if you are into reading about that kinda thing:

The word “just”

“Can’t we *just* do <insert thing here>?”

Is only ever said by people who are ignorant, and are not even aware of their ignorance. If you have enough experience, you’ve learned that nothing “just” happens. Even for things that seem simple, there’s always more than meets the eye when you get down to doing it.

MacBook Pro 2016 wishes

I’ve been a professional user of Macs for the last 16 years. From graphic studios, to music production to video editing, I’ve used Macs to do my job as long as I can remember. I’ve *never* had a computer that was fast enough to keep up with my work. Yes, the computers we use now are easily 100x faster than the PowerMac 7600 I used to manipulate Quark XPress 3.32, but the quality and scope of work we throw at them has increased alongside of Moore’s law so that instead of waiting for Photoshop Unsharp Mask filter to process on a 200 dpi 24″x36″ poster, I’m now waiting for H.264 multi-pass encoding on 1080p video to finish.

So, as someone who has used every single “professional” Mac, from the Power Mac 8500 to the Bondi Blue G3 tower, Mirror-drive-door graphite G4, PowerMac G5 2.5 GHz (liquid cooled no less), and every Mac Pro shipped, which is an embarrassingly low number, I know of what I speak. /nerdcredentials

On Batteries

I’ve been using 15–17″ Macbook Pros for the last 10 years. The latest Retina design is great. I use every single port, sometimes all simultaneously. But in terms of battery life, there is no way that even for a second, I’d consider leaving the house without my AC adapter for this laptop.

Apple’s “wireless-web” of 9–10 hours for the latest models is nowhere near the amount of time I get out of a single charge. When I’m doing actual work, using the CPU and discrete GPU I might get half of that, if I’m really lucky. 3-4 hours is nowhere near “all-day” battery for a Mac user who uses graphic intensive software, stressing both CPU and GPU.

I have never, not once, thought that I needed to have a computer that is thinner and has a smaller battery. I could not care less about how heavy it is.

Somebody in the design lab needs to slap Jony in the face and stare him down while saying very slowly and deliberately “None of our Pro users want a thinner laptop! Please go talk to the designer assigned to the MacBook One to contemplate the essential essence of it’s form. We are going to make a fucking truck for the few people left that want to use them.”

But more likely, Ive is gonna do his Jedi mind tricks to make that person immediately start shaving off millimetres from the foam core model on their desk.

Magic Toolbar?

The OLED touch screen idea is a great idea. This will be a huge hit with Pro Apps users if Logic and Final Cut Pro lead the way. And as a nod to the past, I’d love for them to call it the Control Strip, but I suppose everything is magical these days in Phil’s world. As someone who uses apps that all have F key’s programmed into their default key commands, the dual nature of these keys has always been confusing. Sliders and other UI controls that offer more direct ways of manipulating things on a continuum will be way better than the current twitchy way of increasing volume for example.

Ports

The USB-C connector will be great. One port to rule them all has been a dream of computer users for so long. Ending our long national nightmare of incorrectly plugging in every USB cable 2 out of 3 times will be truly amazing. I really hope that all of these ports are also Thunderbolt 3, but maybe there are technical reasons why this would be difficult?

I will be sad however, if Apple reduces the total number of ports. If you count the SD card and power as a port, the current model has 8 “inputs”. I would really like to see *at least* 6 ports on the redesigned MacBook Pro, but 8 would be even better. Anything less will be a big step backwards in my view. Having to carry around a hub or another device to get more ports will be super annoying, especially with the number of adapters we will need.

It will be great that each port can be anything. Certainly I’ve had times where I wanted four USB 3 ports rather than two USB 3 ports and two Thunderbolt ports. This kind of flexibility will be great.

Thunderbolt 3 will be a big deal for pro users. Obviously, ever since the PowerBook Duo, Apple customers have been dreaming of the ultra portable laptop, that with one quick connection would transform into the ultimate desktop computer.

I will forgive Apple for only including 4 USB-C ports if they also ship along side of it:

MacBook Dock

There have been many Thunderbolt 2 docks, and there are now number USB-C ones, but all accounts seem that these are unreliable, and expensive, and limited in some way or another with some port lacking or not enough of.

If I were in charge of this product it would have:

– USB 3.1 ports x 6
Maybe 6 seems crazy, but I don’t think having a printer, audio interface, card reader, 1-2 external hard drives is unusual in the world of media creation.
– 10 GB/s Ethernet
– HDMI 1.4
– Thunderbolt 2 ports x 2
– SD Card Reader
– Analogue audio, 3.5 mm input AND output
– AC Power

And for my “one more thing”, I would make every nerd instantly get hard by including in the dock, an external desktop class GPU, whatever the latest Nvidia or ATI chip is best.

Thunderbolt 3 is now 40 Gbps which seems like there should be enough bandwidth for dedicated PCI lanes for the GPU, plus be able to handle all of the video streams for driving external displays and other Thunderbolt uses.

As a nerd, I would love this to be housed on a regular PCI card, the same as PC users use, so it could be upgraded easily… but I’ve come to accept the Apple strategy tax and realize that this is not gonna happen.

But at least, operationally, it seems like decoupling the GPU from the unpredictable cycle of Intel CPU availability, keeping this Dock up to date would be much easier to do. And prevent Mac users from feeling abandoned every time Intel fucks shit up.

This is probably very pie in the sky and not worth it for Apple to spend resources on, but if they are going to continue to have Pro lines, it would be better to create products that fit the needs of these customers, however small in number we are compared to iPhone users.

Apple Watch 2 Speculation

What is the best way to control the Apple Watch 2 display?

In order to have a full colour screen, the current display and battery technology is not capable of keeping the screen lit up for 16–18 hours a day. Could this change in the near future?

Battery densities increase very incrementally and since the size of the device needs to stay the same or more than likely, thinner 1, there is slim to no chance the battery is going to get 3–4 times bigger.  To go from the current Apple Watch to one that could have the display on all day, well, that’s just not going to happen because of battery improvements. There is a rumour of a 35% larger batterya 1.28 WH rating over the Apple Watch’s current 0.98 WH battery, but adding GPS to Watch 2 will probably use most of this larger capacity. It doesn’t change the fact that the display would still need to turn itself off for most of the day.

So, is there a display technology that will give us the 10x or more improvement needed in power efficiency? Can AMOLEDS be produced much more efficiently than the current versions? Or are we waiting for micro-LED technology? They acquired a company called LuxVue in 2014 that was reportedly working on this tech. I’m not sure anybody outside of Apple would have any idea, but I suspect that the power budget to have a screen on all the time is not feasible in the near future.

So what would solve this problem? Better software or new hardware?

The fundamental design flaw with the current Apple Watch is it doesn’t know for certain whether you are looking at it or not. The current trick of detecting gyro motion is neat and clever, but nowhere near 100% reliable.

Yes, you can train users to rotate their forearms to “activate on raise” but it’s even more annoying when you do this Dick Tracy wrist swivel move and the screen still doesn’t come on! I notice this issue a lot when my hands are already above my shoulders, or lying down on a couch, on my side or back.

And yes, the team could tweak that algorithm to make it more sensitive, but then you’re going to have more false positives, where the watch is pointing away from you and yet the screen is on, both wasting battery and showing others what you may not want to show them.

But for Apple Watch to be a better watch in every way from a traditional mechanical or quartz powered watch, it fucking NEEDS to be visible whenever I look at it with 100% reliability. Anything less is a terrible user experience.

I believe detecting WHEN a user is looking at the screen is the most fundamental challenge they need to solve for the watchOS to advance as a platform.

So, do we need better software? Or new hardware? Or in typical Apple style, both?

One Possible Solution

The Watch needs some sort of sensor to detect a user looking at it. I wonder if any of the engineers from PrimeSense, the company who created the original Kinnect, acquired by Apple in 2013, ended up on the Watch team?

I would guess the iPhone’s face detection feature might have already used this technology, and there are rumours of them working on 3D depth mapping technology (dual lenses on iPhone 7 Plus seems way more interesting with this in mind, especially for augmented reality applications), but perhaps they’ve also been working on future Watch technologies?

I wonder whether the rumours of a FaceTime camera on the Watch have more to do with a sensor that could detect eyeballs looking at it, rather than using it for video chat? I’m no programmer, but it would seem to me, the contrast between the whites of someone’s eye and their retina colour would be something that could be reliably detected by a CMOS sensor and intelligent software? And could it be made cheaply enough to include on the $299 price point version of the product?

So, the watch needs a sensor and a lens. Where would that go? Doesn’t seem like there’s room for one on the current model, in between edge of screen and case. Would an ugly forehead or chin on the Watch get approval from our dear CDO? Would the holy alter of symmetry, that Jony has the entire design team pray to before every day in the lab, allow for space above or below the screen for a camera hump? I don’t think so.

For Apple standards of industrial design, we would need to have this sensor embedded behind the screen as a layer underneath the AMOLEDs. I wonder if this patent from 2013 is ready to be used on a shipping product?

http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/05/apple-invents-a-wild-new-display-that-could-conceal-a-camera-strobe-flash-andor-fingerprint-scanner-until-needed.html

There are also rumours of retina scanning tech coming to iPhone in 2017 already, but maybe the initial version of the rumoured edge-to-edge AMOLED 2018 iPhone with no forehead or chin would be tested out on the much smaller screen and lower volumes of the Apple Watch?

Another nice side benefit of the S2 chip constantly scanning for eyeballs looking at the watch, is that the opposite is also true. If you could reliably detect not just eyeballs, but whose eyeballs it’s seeing, you could then ensure that the screen is off when turned away from a person. The “most personal device Apple has ever made” could expand to also mean that the UI and content on this device are truly “for your eyes only”.

As you put more and of your personal information about your health and daily life into Apple OS’s, it would be wonderful if privacy could be expanded to making sure others don’t accidentally see a private notification or details about your health you’d rather not be public knowledge.

Maybe the new MicroLED screen technology is a requirement for this to happen? Most “analysts” seem to think this isn’t feasible until 2017. So, maybe I’m really predicting what the Apple Watch 3 will be like, but I really hope that I’m wrong and we see a dramatically better Apple Watch UX on Sept 7th.

 

1. see Jony Ive’s obsession with thinness in every other Apple product.

Automating the Television

There’s a use case for the AppleTV that I’d love Apple to think more about: the elderly who have difficulty with fine motor controls in their hands due to arthritis, or conditions like Parkinsons. Or people with dementia’s who have degraded spatial relations parts of their brain and memory challenges. Or people with all manner of eye related disorders.

People for whom using any kind of remote control to control on on screen user interface, or voice interaction to find something to watch, is just not a possibility. It’s not a matter of how easy something is, controlling an interface of *any* sort is outside of their capabilities. But they still need the entertainment that television provides for them.

What if Proactivity mode for AppleTV noticed that everyday at 7 PM, 85% of the time, the MLB app is open during the hours of when the local ballteam plays and automatically created a rule that tunes in the ball game for Gramps, even if they’re playing a central timezone road game.

Or it would automatically have the screen open for the next episode of the show you’ve been watching at around 8:30, just after the dishes have been finished and you’re ready to turn your brain off? Regardless of whether it’s on Netflix, Hulu or iTunes.

Or would notice that everyday at around 5 PM you tend to put on a playlist from Apple Music that is usually uptempo.

Or even create an advanced interface for the kids to go in and manually program a schedule, or add keywords into a YouTube playlist so that the only thing that’s needed is to say TV ON and you’re watching moving pictures, every time. Totally not an Apple thing to allow for such customizable and geeky type of settings, but I think the sheer mass and therefore breadth of Apple customers now, slavishly adhereing to the dear leaders principles of simplicity is exactly what Steve warned against doing. We are so far past the one button iDVD interface at this point, it’s ludicrous to haul out this old chestnut every time the idea of preferences & flexibilty vs the design is about making decisions crowd.