I've been wanting to see this movie since it was first announced many, many months ago. Then things fell silent for a while. And now suddenly, we have a trailer. Add this one to your "To Watch" list.
Who are you, what do you do, etc.?
I like to refer to myself as a business harlequin, but in actual fact, I am a Sales Manager at Cisco Systems. Joking aside, I am fortunate to have a very diverse background and career. While finishing school many moons ago, I funded an event magazine (like in paper & print) of which there are still remains existing today. After some years in a startup company, I went into management consulting and enjoyed a career in that industry for quite a while. For 6 years I am with Cisco in various roles, currently managing a sales team across Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
My "other" identity, if you like, obviously is mainly influenced by the writing I do on my blog SimplicityBliss. Next to the blog I enjoy writing in general and am working on my first ebook for a while now. My educational background is actually in communication and design — which makes my professional career look even more weird, I guess — and I love fiddling around design-wise, but rarely get to do it. Podcasting could be something I'll consider in the future.
I live in the greater Stuttgart area in Germany — yep, right there where the HQs of Mercedes and Porsche are — with my wife, two kids, and two cats. Free-ride Mountain Biking is the thing I enjoy if I have any time left in the day.
What tools do you use to get your job done? Software, hardware, etc.
My current gig is a 13" MacBook Air (2GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) which I got a week before the new ones came out at WWDC — isn't it always like that? When working from home it gets hooked up with a 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display, an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, and a Magic Trackpad. But since I am on the road through Europe quite a bit, I also have a well developed travel setup.
I certainly rely heavily on my iPhone 5 (Black 32GB) and the iPad Mini (Black 32GB with Cellular + Wifi), in particular when on the go. For the future, given the amount of travel I do and the nature of my professional work, I am even considering to go iPad-only when away, and leave the MBA mounted at home. Could well be that I'll start that experiment later this year.
Application-wise my setup is not particular thrilling. The work that I do happens in what many people would call a traditional organizational environment. Although large corporations have made their efforts to keep up with the small and agile startups, role profiles remain different. Mine is dominated by managerial and conceptual aspects which is reflected in the applications I use.
- Microsoft Office 2011 — Working in a huge corporation this is just the default standard. And while Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook are not my friends, I get along with them well.
- OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle & MindNode Pro — When I do my thinking and conceptualizing, these three application help me a lot to bring it down on paper, either graphically or with words.
- Evernote — keeps all my brief notes, meeting minutes, and long-term reference material; Using Doxie Go with it made me practically paperless some years ago.
- Dropbox — My life. In Sync. Together with Unbound it even replaced iPhoto for me.
- Sketch & Pixelmator — when I feel a little more artistic.
- Byword, Marked & Marsedit — for most of my writing and blogging which happens largely in Markdown (powered by Brett Terpstra's Markdown Service Tools).
- iBook Author & ScreenFlow — still working on my ebook.
- OmniFocus — which does not come as a surprise, I suppose.
I certainly have a number of small utilities and helpers — including things like TextExpander, 1Password , Alfred, Moom, etc. — installed that get me through my work more efficiently. You can read about my entire setup in my recent post about my Fresh Mac Install.
What first made you start your site, SimplicityBliss?
I wanted to see what I can get away with. Seriously. I started SimplicityBliss a long time ago to simply write and see if anyone would be crazy enough to read it.
People, to my surprise, did read it and started to interact with the content. At some stage, I realized that I had found an audience, which was an incredible moment. The blog grew on me and the readership grew over the years.
When I started to write, personal productivity and tools that helped with the concept — in particular, OmniFocus — have been the focal point of my writing.
How have things changed since you first started?
I did, and still am, getting away with my blogging including a pleasant, loyal, and increasing readership even though I do not post on a daily basis. Some incredible things have happened as a result, including my trip to Macworld earlier this year speaking at the OmniFocus 2 event and meeting many US nerd friends of mine.
The most interesting thing that seems to change lately is the direction of the blog. I have been practicing GTD for over 10 years now and blogging about personal productivity for more than 6. It'll be wrong to say that I have by now reached a "higher level of productivity", but my relationship with the subject has changed quite dramatically. This is, and will be, influencing my writing going forward. The blog is going to take a different direction, but I do not know which yet. However, productivity and technology will always play a role in my writing and I will not start publishing cupcake recipes all of a sudden, I promise.
Technically, the blog has been on nearly as many blogging platforms as years it has been around. Eventually, I settled with what I had started on: Wordpress. A nice example on how fiddling and endless optimization consumes time and distracts you from truly important things.
As you've mentioned, your site is geared towards productivity — quite a buzzword online these days. How do you differentiate your site from the hundreds of others out there, and how do you keep yours truly useful?
I simply do not care about differentiation. I hear things like "Unique Selling Proposition" and "Differentiators" every day in my job and they rarely exist if only you look close enough. In blogging it is very similar. The thing I really care about is authenticity. I write about the things I like writing about and I feature applications, services, and products I personally like and use. People (or "the market") decide whether they read or follow you in the end. I am trying to write for the right audience — not for the biggest one.
Blogging and podcasting are much more of a commercial business than most people think. I am very fortunate that my blog does not need to earn me money and allows me to be as candid, naive, controversial, and weird as I like.
The moment you focus on the "competition" and how to differentiate from it is when you start neglecting your own genuine vision and product. I am still trying to get away with doing my own thing and not the thing that attracts the most clicks, subscribers, or followers.
Having said that, the fact that I work in a 50,000+ people organization and have management responsibilities should yield some very different views on workflow and productivity topics discussed. At least in comparison with many of my respected peers who work in either small companies or as freelancers.
According to your colophon, you live in Germany. How do you speak English so well?
Do I? My spoken English is definitely better than my written one since it is the latter that causes regular embarrassment due to typos or screwed up grammar on the blog.
Like all Germans of my generation, I had English in school from the 5th grade onwards. It is great to see that my son has now had it from the 1st grade already. But the "secret" to my English skills is that my entire professional career of the last 15 years has taken place exclusively in international environments and that there was not a single day during that time where I did not speak or write in English. As with so many things in life, it is about practice — a fact that no productivity methodology will ever change.
If you could only install one third party app on your iPhone, what would it be? Mac?
I'll try to make this a little more exciting by removing OmniFocus as an option, which otherwise would have been the default answer everyone expects from me.
Since the iOS stock apps can actually take you quite far, it would need to be an application that provides additional functionality (or enjoyment) as opposed to improve existing. Therefore I'd be settling with either Tweetbot or Runkeeper on the iPhone.
The first thing I miss on a Mac that is not mine is typically Alfred. While a few things Alfred does can be achieved using Spotlight, a huge number of truly time saving hacks would not be possible without it.
Any plans for the future, or projects in the works, that you'd be willing to divulge here?
My "day" job is quite busy these days and I am also transitioning into a new role in August which typically means some intense time ahead. This currently keeps me away from progressing my OmniFocus ebook project which is ultimately the thing I want to finish first before moving some other ideas I have forward.
Sitting in Germany but being connected to some great nerdy folks in the US, I am working on some ideas on how to intensify this transatlantic tech relationship for the benefit of the bigger community. And once the first book is out a second one might become easier to do as well. Who knows?
Single favorite movie?
After some years of disappointment, I have seen some good movies lately, for example the Dark Knight trilogy or the 2008 RockNRolla by Guy Ritchie. However, my all-time favourite remains Michael Mann's Heat from 1995 with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. From awesome action scenes, an engaging plot to character actors this flick is simply prefect. This is maybe also because I am a big De Niro fan owning every movie with him ever released on DVD.
If you could have any single super-power, what would it be?
Cannot decide between 'melodic farting' and 'cognitive television channel zapping', I am afraid.
After much anticipation and speculation, Microsoft has finally made their move to bring Office to iOS. It comes in the form of "Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers" and allows for light editing and formatting of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files. The app requires an Office 365 subscription (Microsoft's service that allows you to access Office from anywhere), which starts at $5 a month and can be purchased from within the app. You get a free 30-day trial, though, so that's nice.
The app is surprisingly iOS 7ish, and is overall pleasant to look at. But it's iPhone-only, and only allows for editing on a more minor scale. Plus, most of the reviews seem to be indifferent, if not outright negative. Take this one from MacStories:
Office Mobile will aggregate Office files from your SkyDrive folder, which is nice, but the editing options offered are finicky. Microsoft prefers their own controls before iOS’ own standard actions, making editing a frustrating experience. Doing basic things like select text in Word or tapping on cells in Excel is a chore, and editing itself is complicated.
What this means for you is that if you already, for some reason, have an Office 365 subscription, then this is a nice new thing to have and be able to use. But if you don't, and probably use and like either iWork or Google Drive, then Office Mobile is not something that is suddenly going to pull you back into using Office. For the Microsoft guy, it's great. But if you're a Microsoft guy, why do you have an iPhone? You're probably going to want to skip this one.
I wasn't an enormous fan of 300, so it was with some trepidation that I took my seat in the theater to see Man of Steel — the latest superhero movie with Christopher Nolan's stamp of approval — directed by Zack Snyder. My confidence in Snyder might have been lacking, but my confidence in Nolan was strong. If Nolan had produced the movie, even if he didn't direct the thing, it would have to be good enough for me. And indeed, hopes were high for Man of Steel. I wanted to see another great superhero movie — rooting for Superman, DC, and Nolan. I wanted to blown away again.
It was since the movie was first announced that my excitement started building. Since the very beginning I had an inkling that it would definitely be good — pairing the masterminds Nolan and Goyer, along with Snyder's over the top style — but I was extremely curious if it would be something more than that.
The movie was good. Or, should I say, good enough. From start to finish there was action, and plot advancement. I don't think there was a single dull moment — and that is high praise for any movie. But I also don't think that there was a single holy cow my mind was just blown moment either. From start to finish the movie was good and enjoyable, but never was it amazing. There was very little bad, and very little phenomenal. It was just good.
And there's that inevitable comparison to The Dark Knight (Trilogy). And Man of Steel was just not as meaningful. It was not as deep, it was not as insightful. It tried a bit, but it fell a tad flat. There was not nearly as much intricacy or depth to the story, and in that way, the movie, with its many, many action sequences and eye candy, felt a bit superficial.
And let's talk a bit about those action scenes. The repetitive, super-human versus super-human action. The he punches you, you punch him, rinse-wash-and-repeat, action. It was constant, it was at points even intense, but there was so much of the same thing it got stale at points. Another building? Another car? Jeez, I was worried about my own car in the parking lot.
Back to that comparison to The Dark Knight. While The Dark Knight was a total rethinking of how Batman has ever been brought to screen before, Man of Steel seems to be more akin to only a refresh of how Superman has existed in the past. The movie had many classic Superman scenes, and was fun in that way. But it also had the whole idea of aliens and other plants thrown into the whole new "realistic" feel of the movie. The movie added new and fresh elements, from the music, to the real locations (like Grand Central Station). But at its core, there was nothing truly innovative in this portrayal of Superman. It was a good one, a fun one, indeed one of the best — but it was nothing truly novel.
Man of Steel, however, is set in a slightly-different-than-usual Superman world — one that is more realistic. That scene where Superman is arrested, for instance. This idea, of course, fits with the way The Dark Knight was made: as a grittier, darker, thrilling crime saga as much as it is a superhero movie. But in that regard, Man of Steel is nowhere close. It is nowhere nearly as profound, and the world that was created for Man of Steel has quite a few problems in and of itself.
Jor-El promises that the people of Earth together with Kal-El (Superman) would go on to do great things. This seems nice, but I can't help but wonder what great things, exactly? Defend Earth from attackers who are only there in the first place because of Superman? And speaking of villains, the movie, in a way, locks out the potential for strong future ones. What motives could future villains have? Why would they choose to attack Earth other than because Superman is there? And what, coincidentally after Superman reveals himself bad things start to happen? Either way, I don't want to see another movie of Superman fighting against other people who have superpowers as well.
And then there is that whole bit when Superman finally gets Zod in a headlock and is forced to kill a family in order to defeat Zod, who was using his laser-vision to cut them down. I liked that they played off of Superman's role as Earth's protector, and the choices he would have to make to save them. They aren't. after all, truly his people — as Zod pointed out as he died. But I wish they could have explored that more throughout the rest of the movie instead of saving it for an ending. It made a great, meaningful plot point, but only a mediocre, meaningful ending. (As a side note, I wonder what Batman would have done in that scenario.)
Man of Steel is to Superman what The Amazing Spiderman is to the Spiderman franchise. A good, solid movie. An update. A refresh with new elements that make it better than ever before. But nothing phenomenally outstanding.
It is good enough to not at all be bad, but not quite good enough to be something special. And in that way, it enters the DC universe.
Steven Spielberg isn't too confident with the current state of the film industry, it would seem. THR is reporting that in a somewhat upsetting statement, Spielberg is predicting that one or two big-budget movies will fail, pushing the industry into massive price variances where "you're gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, [but] you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln." George Lucas agreed, adding that he expects movies to stay in theaters for much longer, reminding Spielberg of the year and a half that E.T. was in theaters for.
Spielberg as a whole seemed upset about the state of things, saying that Lincoln was very close to just being an HBO special, and that TV is more adventurous these days than film is. Lucas also added:
"We're talking Lincoln and Red Tails — we barely got them into theaters. You're talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their movie into a theater."
Neither director seemed to have any great insight into how to stop such an implosion, but perhaps they don't want to stop it. Maybe let some big movies crash and burn, and let the industry be turned on its side. Maybe then Hollywood will start focusing on meaningful, smart movies that resonate with people, as opposed to green-lighting things like Battleship.
The sequel to 300 now has an official trailer, and 300: Rise of an Empire looks just as beautiful as the original. Produced by Zack Snyder (directed by Noam Murro, though), this time we'll be following a war on the sea "as Greek general Themistokles attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war", with some new actors and a score by Junkie XL to boot.
I can't say I was an enormous fan of 300 beyond the aesthetics and superficial good fun, but I'll still be seeing this movie along with the rest of the world. Due out March 7, 2014.
Who are you, what do you do, etc.?
I'm Rene Ritchie. I run a website called iMore for a network called Mobile Nations. I also run their broadcast operations, and co-host a bunch of podcasts, including the iMore show with Peter Cohen, Debug with Guy English, Iterate with Marc Edwards and Seth Clifford, ZEN & TECH with Georgia, and I'm a regular on MacBreak Weekly with Leo Laporte, Andy Ihnatko, and Alex Lindsay.
What tools do you use to get your job done? Software, hardware, etc.
I use a Retina MacBook Pro for most of my computing. I live in Photoshop CS 6 and use BBEdit for text. I use Napkin to annotate things quickly, Coda for web dev, Final Cut Pro X for video, GarageBand for audio, Aperture for photo management, Safari for browsing and Chrome for Google services. 1Password manages all my access, across all devices. I use a Mac Pro for podcasting with audio hijack and WireCast.
I use an iPhone on the go, though because of my job I also have a BlackBerry Z10 and Nexus 4, and will probably get an HTC One and Nokia Lumia 925 soon-ish.
I have an iPad 4 that I mostly use just for comics and video nowadays, and an iPad mini that I use most of the time, for most things, and also to tether my MacBook Pro.
I don't really have a desk per-se. I move my laptop around a lot, from the couch to a counter (where I stand — I try to do that as much as possible), to the podcasting station, to coffee shops or friends' houses. I hate being in one place for too long.
You run iMore, one of the best Apple-centric tech sites. Still genuine and helpful. What do you think sets iMore apart from all of the other Apple sites? How do you think it got the popularity that it did in such a crowded space?
Being part of Mobile Nations doesn't hurt. Mobile Nations might not look it, but it's huge. CrackBerry and Android Central are each, independently, bigger than a lot of general tech sites. We also have terrific people who work their asses off on an hourly, never mind daily, basis. Our sole focus is entertaining, informing, and delighting our readers. When that's the motivation, I think the end result reflects it.
How did you end up running iMore?
I was a member of the forums and noticed they weren't getting news up particularly fast at one point. Turns out the guy running the site at the time had left, so Dieter Bohn, who ran the network, asked if I wanted to help out. I did, and began doing so. Eventually he asked if I wanted to run the site. I basically complained my way into a career.
Asides from iMore, you do a ton of other stuff online. How do you delineate between iMore stuff, and many of your other tech-centric endeavors online? What goes where?
I work for Mobile Nations. Most of the time that work ends up on iMore, but if I have to, I cover the Samsung GS4 launch for Android Central, or BlackBerry Live for CrackBerry, or run the podcasts for the whole network, I'll do it. MacBreak is sort of my vacation.
It appears you like to cook. Care to talk a bit about that?
Same thing as the blogging, really. I learned early on that if I cooked, I got to decide what I eat. I started off as a kid making crepes, then learned Italian cooking from my friend's family, Chinese cooking from my Kung-Fu teacher's wife, and experimented with some other stuff. It's the closest thing to alchemy, and very cathartic.
If you could only install one third party app on your iPhone, what would it be? Mac?
1Password on both. I couldn't get to anything else without it. Dropbox would be a close second.
Any plans for the future, or projects in the works, that you'd be willing to divulge here?
We're launching Talk Mobile 2013 right now! It's a network-wide event, across all of Mobile Nations, hosted by Cali Lewis and John P of GeekBrief.tv, and featuring Kevin Michaluk, Phil Nickinson, Daniel Rubino, and I, as sort-of conversation starters for a broad range of topics centered around how mobile technologies influence our lives. We shot 50 videos in 3 days in New York City, and have been writing 50 feature articles to go with them ever since. It's the biggest, hardest project we've ever done at Mobile Nations, but I love it a lot and hope everyone else will as well.
Single favorite movie?
I don't have favorite anythings. I like a lot of movies, all for different reasons. Variety is my favorite.
If you could have any single super-power, what would it be?
I'm a comic book nerd, so I know the cheat to this: reality alteration. With that power, you can do or have anything else.
The much anticipated Steve Jobs biopic Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher, now has an official worldwide release date of August 16th. The premiered a few months back at a film festival to very mixed review — some loving, and some hating, the film. I think every geek though, probably wants to decide that for his or herself. After being strung along for months without a solid release date, it's good to finally have one. Again, that's August 16th, with the plan of being released after the major summer blockbusters to have a better chance of standing out. Mark your calendars. Hopefully it will be good.
The Man of Steel soundtrack was released today, and boy is it ever typical Hans Zimmer goodness. There are two versions of the 18 track album — the Deluxe Edition, with six extra tracks including a thirty-minute-long special track, and the regular version, which also includes that special track, but is lacking those six extra tracks. The former will run you $17.99 while the latter will save you a few bucks at $13.99. Having listened to them both, I say take your pick.
The soundtrack is what you would expect from a Hans Zimmer score — indeed, a Hans Zimmer superhero score after he did The Dark Knight Trilogy. It's full of slightly-techno, melodic and emotional riffs, and the Man of Steel soundtrack even features soft choral vocals. It has drum-heavy tracks just as it has wind and string instrument heavy tracks. It's diverse, yet familiar. It's a joy to listen to, but I think in the end is still a step down from Zimmer's work, say, on Inception or The Dark Knight.
You see, no individual track is mindblowingly amazing, as are many tracks off of some of Zimmer's other work. But still, the album is more than the sum of its parts. Each track is short as they are meant to flow one into the next. In that way, it is not just an album full of individual good piece, but rather a single, very long, great piece of music. And in truth, the album is great. It's a pleasure to listen to, takes just that right amount of appreciation, and brings out emotion. It just does not have the edge that some of Zimmer's other work does.
Perhaps, however, that is the point. Remember, this soundtrack is still a soundtrack — not just a composition for listening. It has a movie to go along with it. The music sets the tone of the movie, and so if the movie was more visually edgy, the music might want a tad bit less of that. I have no seen Man of Steel yet (I'm not sure if I can make it until Friday!) but I bet you any amount of money that the soundtrack sounds phenomenal together with the film. It is a superb score — and we have come to expect nothing less than that from Mr. Zimmer. And in that way, he delivers once again.
Some highlights from the album:
- Look to the Stars: The introductory track, setting the tone and pace for the rest of the album. Short, sweet, and very much to the point.
- Goodbye My Son and If You Love These People: A particularly moving track that moves into an equally great track.
- Flight and What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?: Two very similar tracks in tone and feel. Both emotional and rich.
- Man of Steel (Han's Original Sketchbook): I'm not 100% sure what the deal with that title is, but I imagine it is Zimmer's overture of sorts for the whole film. It's almost a half an hour and encapsulates the entire rest of the score, going from slow, to faster and richer, back to slower and calmer again.
While by no means is Man of Steel Zimmer's greatest work, it is certainly a great score nonetheless, and is a pleasure to listen to both standalone or, perhaps, while you are doing some work and don't want more distracting music with vocals. It is relaxing and emotional all at the same time, and is a great addition to any soundtrack collection. And it's sure to sound even better with, and once you have seen, the movie.
For those not thrilled with how The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey turned out (my hand is most certainly raised), the second of the three-part series, The Desolation of Smaug, now has its first trailer and might look more promising. The great Benedict Cumberbatch is both voicing Smaug and playing The Necromancer, and Martin Freeman returns as Bilbo Baggins (perhaps that's why the third season of Sherlock is still so far away). The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be coming to theaters this December. For all you Lord of the Rings fans out there, start getting excited.
After the teases a few weeks ago, Microsoft and Sony have both now revealed more information about their latest game consoles.
The PlayStation 4 finally now has a face, will cost $399, and will be shipping this holiday season in the US and Europe. The PlayStation 4 will not need an Internet connection to play offline games, and will continue to support used games. In addition, while the PS4 will not support older PS1-3 games natively, they will be playable through the PlayStation cloud service. The Verge, as usual, has full coverage of the PS4 announcements if you'd like more details.
While both consoles have their fans, it would seem that Sony is really pushing ahead here with their console being $100 cheaper, and supporting things that the Xbox One will not support. The Xbox is quite important to Microsoft these days, so it will be interesting to see how well the new Xbox One will sell alongside significant competition from the PS4.
You might know Hans Zimmer's work from such fantastic soundtracks as Inception, or The Dark Knight Trilogy, or from many, many other fantastic scores. And now he's back, having composed the score for Man Of Steel, released today on iTunes. The Deluxe Version will run you $17.99, while the regular version is $13.99. I'd recommend the Deluxe Version as it includes eight bonus tracks, one of which is about thirty minutes long. Plus, Hans Zimmer's music is some of my absolute favorite, so I'll take as much of it as I can get.
If you're looking for the music used in the Man of Steel trailers, it's Elegy that you want — not affiliated with Hans Zimmer at all, but still a great track, and well worth the $0.99 for close to ten minutes.
Full review of the album forthcoming here on BitQuill, but in the meantime you can watch how Man of Steel is fairing on the Tomatometer — it currently has a solid 72%.
As caught by MacRumors, Apple has posted the official, high resolution desktop wallpaper used as the default for OS X Mavericks seen in today's Keynote. The dimensions of the wallpaper are 5120 x 2880, enough for a 27" Retina monitor (which only confirms further that they are, one day soon, coming), and thus certainly good enough for any smaller display.
If you want some of that Mavericks flair but can't wait until the fall, go ahead and grab the official Mavericks wallpaper today.
iOS 7 is a rather radical design departure for Apple and their iOS devices. Indeed, it is polarizing as such. And to be honest, right now, I fall on the side that is not much a fan of the new design. I mentioned this slightly in my WWDC recap, but I'd like to talk a little bit more about why I don't really like the way iOS 7 looks.
Let's start with the icons. They look strange and are inconsistent with each other. Some are merely a tweaked version of the current icon design, while others are completely and totally different, changed to be more abstract (think: the Photos and Game Center icons). The problem is that it seems that when Apple was at a loos how to frame the icon, they just threw some white space at it. The Safari icon looks quite ugly and out of place along side the similarly designed Phone, Mail, and Music icons. Then there is the Newsstand icon, which looks like something someone threw together in Microsoft Word quickly. And the Camera icon still is a completely different design scheme in and of itself. And together, the new iOS 7 homescreen just looks like a mess.
Of course, you don't want to judge a whole OS based solely on the icons, and so I won't. The translucency throughout iOS 7, to be honest, doesn't bother me. I like that, and I can see how it enhances and changes the OS as you change your wallpaper and apps. That's all cool.
But then you have something like Control Center, which just looks like a mishmash of control and toggles thrown together randomly. It's not terrible, but it's not great. And why are the icons in Control Center different from the ones on the homescreen? And take the share-sheets — they have different icons too. Nothing seems to be consistent throughout the design. Even the new dots displaying you signal strength seem strange. (You can see everything I am referring to on Apple's iOS 7 page.)
Throughout the new OS things look smushed together and disproportionate. It's hard to tell where the UI end and the content of the app begins. Apps like Messages look cluttered and too busy. Text you have to read and text that serves only as a button, blur into one another and are hard to tell apart. Things that used to clearly be buttons are now just text.
And then you have the new Siri design, or the new Weather app or Notification Center design that almost looks like they are from a different OS entirely. Where something like the Calendar looks strange from a ton of white — where the design is almost a lack of design — Notification Center is full of color. There is the new Safari that looks clean and sleek in its new white skin, and then the Compass and Stocks apps, redesigned in stark black. Inconsistent.
Perhaps it is all the white that is throwing me. The white looks like a lack of design — not a design itself. It's sterile in a strange way. There's too much white. In fact, the only iPhone that is shown running iOS 7 throughout Apple's website is the white one. I wonder if it will look even stranger running on a black phone (although perhaps it'll look less strange?).
iOS 7 as a whole gives off the appearance of a bad Jailbroken theme, to be perfectly honest. As if Apple just jammed in new features into a strange attempt at the current "flat design" trend, only brining Apple ingenuity to some very specific parts of it.
I don't know. Perhaps we all just need some time. Some things are indeed gorgeous (like the new multitasking, or the lockscreen) but others — indeed, most things — just feel wrong.
Of course, this is only the first Beta. Things can still change quite a bit. And I'm sort of hoping that they do.
As usual after an Apple event, BitQuill is here to give you a rundown of everything you need to know about what was announced a released, touching on the finer points you may have missed as well. Read through this, and you are more than good to go.
- We finally know exactly how long WWDC 2013 sold out in: 71 seconds.
- Apple has now payed over $10 billion to developers — three times all other major platforms combined.
- The new iMac is the #1 desktop in the US, and the new MacBooks are #1 as well.
- Apple is going with new names for OS X, switching off of the big cat names as they ran out of options. Now they are using Californian inspiration, starting with OS X Mavericks for this next release.
- New features of Mavericks include tabs in the Finder, tags for organizing files (continuing Apple's move away from the file structure), better multiple display support, a new iBooks and Maps app, and more.
- There is also a new interface for renaming a document from the top of the window, including the ability to add or change tags.
- You can use a TV hooked up to an Apple TV as a display. Gone are the days of trying to get things hooked up through daisy chained wires and adapters.
- To be honest, I am still curious how and why tags are better than folders for organization — or if and how I will even use them — but we shall have to wait and see on that one.
- There is lots of new stuff going on under the hood for better battery life and speed improvements.
- Safari got a nice new update with a cool new sidebar with shared links from Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as a redesigned Top Sites page (finally). The usual speed improvements as well.
- iCloud Keychain is a new feature that will suggest, remember, and fill out passwords for you across all your devices. Even on iOS. Watch out 1Password.
- Notifications on the desktop are now live, and you can reply right from with them.
- Apps update in the background, even when your computer is sleeping.
- The calendar has been updated and is no longer skeuomorphic. Facebook events are built right in, and the event creation window is aware of things like weather and travel time and factors it all right in. Brilliant.
- You can send planned out routes from Maps on your Mac to your iPhone.
- Developer preview is out today for OS X Mavericks. It is scheduled to be released this fall. No price yet. Perhaps free?
I'd also like to point out two things here. One, I think we all love Craig Federighi. Two, even with less skeuomorphism, the design is still delightful. There are animations, books opening and closing, and things moving around. It is still all very Apple.
The MacBook Air got a nice update today with the new Haswell processor, all day battery life (9-12 hours), and lower prices. Shipping today.
In an unusual, but I thin smart in this instance, move for Apple, a sneak peak at the new Mac Pro was revealed today to a dramatic video.
The new design is black, sleek, and cylindrical. It looks like something right out of the future. It's unlike any computer you have ever seen before. The internals are all built around a thermal core, and all you need to know is that it's basically got the fastest of everything. It's absurd.
All expansion is external through Thunderbolt 2. It supports up to three 4K displays simultaneously, and the whole thing is tiny compared to the current Mac Pro. It could fit on a desk easily.
Coming later this year, and assembled in the US.
While so much of their software and hardware is working towards the typical consumer, Apple is not forsaking pro users.
- iOS 7 claims to be the biggest change to the iPhone ever, with both new features and a new UI. And indeed, it is. It has been totally redesigned. Every little thing has been updated or changed, from buttons to color schemes and more. It is now a text-heavy design as opposed to elements-based. And to be honest, I am not so sure I love it. Something about it is throwing me. Perhaps it's all the white (like that ugly Game Center icon). I'm not sure. It seems like a strange theme or skin. As Apple said themselves, "iOS 7 is like getting a new phone that you already know how to use". I just think it might take some getting used to.
- As usual for Apple, there are incredible touches. Changing the wallpaper changes the feel of the whole OS in subtle ways. The wallpaper even adjusts and shifts as you tilt your device. So, so cool.
- There are tons of new features, too: Control Center for quick access to things like Bluetooth and Brightness switches — even a flashlight (say goodbye to a lot of apps). A new multitasking interface as well. And both can be accessed even from the lockscreen. All apps can continue to process in the background, but not much new that I saw in the way of inter-app communication. Safari has been updated as well, and no longer has an eight tab limit. There is AirDrop for sharing photos (but only for the iPhone 5). And there's a new photos app with filters and square frames and borders, as well as auto-organization into "moments" based on location and time.
- There is a new universal gesture to go back by swiping from the left edge of the screen.
- You can have multiple pages of folders.
- Siri now has a new, more realistic voice, and can be either a man or a women. It can also adjust thing like Brightness and Bluetooth and plenty of other things as well. It is smarter than ever.
- iOS in the car is coming in 2014 to many cars, and it allows you to access your iPhone via the screen already in your car.
- The App Store has been re-skinned once again, but has some new features too. App will update in the background for you, and you can browse by popular apps in your current location.
- The music app has been updated with a new look and feel, as well as a new cover flow view, and artists pictures pulled from Apple's database.
- Apple also introduced something called iTunes Radio which helps you discover songs based on songs and artists you already like. It's sort of like Genius playlists, but for songs you don't yet own. You can listen to songs in their entirety, and then purchase if you'd so choose. This service is free to all with ads, and is ad free to all with an iTunes Match subscription. But can you choose just one specific song you'd like to listen to? Still unknown. It seems more for discovery then selecting specific tracks. Starting in the US and coming elsewhere "soon".
- You can now make audio-only FaceTime calls, and you can block specific phone numbers from calling or messaging you right from iOS 7.
- And finally, finally, notifications will sync across devices, so you only have to deal with them once.
- A lost or stolen iPhone will not be able to be activated if a their disables Find my iPhone or wipes the device. Should be a good theft deterrent.
- iOS 7 Beta is out today for developers, with a release scheduled for this fall. Remember: Just because you have a developer account does not necessarily mean it is smart to install iOS 7 on your main device.
- A new AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule were release with 802.11ac support.
- iWork for iCloud allows you to edit documents in a browser from both a Mac and PC. It supports Word documents too. A public Beta will be available later this year as well, but there was a public beta of iWork in the cloud once long ago that died. Let's hope this one does not. Oh, and updated versions of the desktop and iOS suite will be coming later this year. Hurrah.
- No word on Retina Cinema Displays. Can't say I am surprised though.
- As of post time, $APPL stock has taken its obligatory post-Keynote dive. Oh, Wall Street. When will you learn?
- You can watch the Keynote online here, if you missed it.
All of the things announced today seemed to be more about cleaning up and perfecting, than piling on tons of new features. I think Apple knocked it out of the park. They covered everything we (realistically) wanted and hoped they would, and more.
Tim Cook closed the keynote with a moving ad that really sums up Apple as a company. Give it a watch.
Personally, and this is actually the first time I will be home to be able to do this, I will be following along mainly by watching the live stream. That's where I plan to get most all of my information. Perhaps I'll drop in on Twitter now and then, but considering I can see the real thing live, most all of the live text streams are less useful to me. If you're home for the event today as well, I'd suggest doing the same thing. Of course, this is all assuming that the video stream goes without a hitch. It, apparently, has been fine in the past, but you never know.
The Keynote is scheduled to start at 1:00 PM ET. If you'd like to know what time it's starting in your time zone, just click here.
We are on the very brink of summer — and we all know what that means. Let the barbecues commence! Of course, it's great to try throwing something new on the grill now and again, like pineapple. I first heard about grilling pineapple last year, and since then it has been a part of all subsequent barbecues. And then I saw a recipe in Esquire for what the dubbed "Dark and Stormy Pineapple". I tried it today, and it was delicious. By far the best grilled pineapple I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. I do indeed think that this variety of grilled pineapple will now be a barbecue staple.
Try grilling some pineapple this summer, and if you do, check out Esquire's recipe. And remember: keep those steaks medium rare.
It would seem that there has been a gap in my iOS gaming experience considering that the apparently ever-so-popular tower defense game Kingdom Rush never made it onto my iPhone. It wasn't a conscious choice — I just had never heard of it. Somehow. Either way, it's a tower defense game (you know, those games in which you're defending against waves of attackers by putting up little towers that shoot things) par excellence that was just followed up with a sequel called Kingdom Rush Frontiers.
You, like me, have probably played tower defense games before. — in fact, unlike me, you might have even played the original Kingdom Rush itself — so you know how much fun they can be. When they are well done, they are addicting, entertaining, and engaging. And let me tell you, Kingdom Rush Frontiers is all of those things and more.
Kingdom Rush Frontiers is the single best tower defense game I have ever played. It is exquisitely made, and has a phenomenal feel to it. Everything from the overarching story, to the finer details (like the sound) are all well developed and designed. Each level is a different environment entirely, and you can interact with it as such. The gameplay never gets repetitive because there is always something new you have to account for or take care of. And, unlike most tower defense games I have ever played, there is no fast-forward button for while you are being attacked — at least from what I've seen — because, again, unlike most tower defense games, there is still plenty to do even while you are being attacked after you have set up your towers.
There are tons of un-lockables, there are varying degrees of difficulty settings, and there are new weapons to unlock and purchase — all of that means that you'll be entertained by the game for a good long while before you really play through the whole thing.
But what I find most interesting about Frontiers is that it's really a new take on the old model of tower defense games. Instead of setting up all your towers just so, and then simply calling on the next wave of attackers, in Frontiers you are constantly on the clock, so to speak. As attackers are coming through, it is up to you to send in reinforcements as and where needed. You can call a firestorm from the sky, and can change the direction your little armies attack. I mean, do you even know of another tower defense game that has armies?
Different attackers have different powers, strengths, and weaknesses and you have to account for all of that as you place and upgrade your towers. And then on top of all of that, there are also magic towers and defenses in the game, which throws in a whole other element entirely. Then there are the crystals you can collect throughout each level to purchase special items like dynamite or potions.
Some levels have snipers off on the cliffs helping you out, some don't. You also have a special guy at the end of your route to help you with one final attempt to ward off your enemies. And there are all sorts of different people you can swap him out for or upgrade to.
Unlike a typical tower defense game, there are only very specific places in which you can place your towers. This is no doubt due to all of the other wonderful stuff you have to worry about and take care of as well — things that all other tower defense games lack.
Again, I've never played the original Kingdom Rush, but I can totally see why it is so beloved. It is clever, unique, and a ton of fun.
There are a few things that I don't love about the game, though. For one, the in-app purchases to get more crystals (as mentioned above). Are those really necessary? It would seem games on iOS these days just can't help themselves.
And then there is the price of the game itself. I'm all for respectably priced iOS apps, but $2.99 for the iPhone version, and then an additional $4.99 for the iPad version seems a little steep. I prefer to play games on my iPad, but I could not bring myself to spend the $4.99 for the iPad-only version, when I knew I would have my iPhone on me more often. I would have much preferred buying a universal app for $3.99. (The original Kingdom Rush, by the way, is currently $0.99 for the iPhone version and $2.99 for the iPad one, if you'd like to check that out instead/in addition. Why are they so opposed to universal apps?
Also, and this is not really the game's fault per se, it takes a few minutes to get the hang of the game. There is a lot going on, and even though the game introduces things slowly, it can be overwhelming at first. Just stick with it. You'll get the hang of it all in no time.
Finally, the game is not one of those quick in-and-out sort of games, but rather a richer game that you might find yourself looking forward to having a small chunk of time to play. The pause function works wonders, but this is definitely a richer game. Not a bad thing at all — no doubt the opposite — just keep that in mind.
All in all, I can't recommend the game enough. If you're looking for the ultimate tower defense game, look nor further. I've never played a better one. And if you're just looking for a great game for your iOS devices, Kingdom Rush Frontiers is a fantastic bet as well. I see why people love it so much.
Ever want to know how to make the perfect fruit salad? Or perhaps how to make Dr Pepper in the comfort of your own home? Well, absolutely do not do it according to the YouTube channel HowToBasic. Of course, if you're looking for something to make you laugh on this fine Sunday, look no further. It's one of the best "trolls" you've ever seen.
MacStories reports that the famed and much beloved iOS game Plants vs. Zombies will be getting a sequel on July 18th. Despite a pretty unexciting trailer, the game will be reworked from the ground up for an entirely new, yet familiar, experience. You'll be battling through time — from the past to the future (whatever that means) — and your "neighbor" Crazy Dave looks to have a big part in this follow-up as well.
The most interesting bit about the game, however, is that unlike the original, Plants vs. Zombies 2 will be completely free to play. Which only means one thing: In-app purchases. While I am excited for a sequel to one of my all-time favorite iOS games, I can't say I'm thrilled at the likely project of IAP. I'd rather just buy the thing. Wouldn't you?