Category Archives: Random

I Killed Krauss!

This cartoon manages to be quite profound in just 3 panels. From Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling. I can imagine a Charlie Kaufman-esque sci-fi movie based on this concept.

New Airtight Branding

After hearing great things about MOO, I finally tried them out and I’m very happy with the result. You get 50 great quality, heavy stock business cards for $20. If you need business cards give these guys a try. Moo make it easy to upload your own design but I was lazy and used their online design tool. The red is the same as this website’s hyperlink color (#F30 if you were wondering).

It was also an opportunity to use my new vanity URL: airtight.cc – which just redirects to www.airtightinteractive.com. I got tired of spelling out ‘airtightinteractive’ on the phone, so figured I should get a snappier URL.

Inception Plot Holes

Ok I realize I’m late to the party here, but I just saw ‘Inception’ and while I really enjoyed it, there were a few things that did not make any sense. For me it’s important for speculative fiction to be internally consistent. Let me know in the comments if you agree/disagree or if you have more plot holes to add.

SPOILER ALERT. Obviously this post is full of spoilers, so don’t read it if you have not yet seen the movie.

  1. When Cobb’s crew first get to the level 1 dream we are told that if they die in the dream their brain will turn to mush since the chemist used some new ‘stronger’ prescription. Presumably this is to make the action sequences become meaningful. But – later on at the bottom level Saito is convinced to shoot himself in order to wake up. Why does his brain not turn to mush? Same applies to Ariadne killing herself by swan-diving off the building.
  2. When they first find out that Fischer’s mind has been weaponized and that dying in the dream will turn them to vegetables, why don’t they abort the mission and all fall over backwards to ‘kick’ themselves back to reality?
  3. Why does the chemist create the stronger, potentially mind-mushing chemical in the first place? Why does Cobb agree to use it?
  4. At one point Eames says ‘you have to dream bigger’ and pulls out a rocket launcher. If you can dream up new weapons, why don’t they whip out loony-tunes style machine guns a-la ‘The Mask’? For that matter, none of the action scenes make sense since it’s all a dream right? There are no laws of physics determining if the bullet hits you or not.
  5. If Saito has enough spare cash to buy an airline, why is he so threatened by Fischer’s corporation? Surely he could come up with a less risky plan than trying to incept the idea of ‘breaking up the company’. How does he know that part of the broken up company would not go on to beat him anyway? Also, why does Saito choose to go into the dream in the first place? You don’t get to be a billionaire by taking unnecessary risks.
  6. They never explain the technology behind the dream sharing device. Dreams within dreams – fine I buy it. But a suitcase with wires that telepathically links people’s minds? If such a thing existed, society would be radically different. And billionaires would presumably be aware of the threat of mind-melding and have some kind of defense system (a bodyguard or crash helmet perhaps?)

How to Beat Apple – Get Serious About Product Design.

Andrew Kim's HTC 1 phone design render

Apple are unstoppable right now. Unbelievably, their market value recently surpassed Microsoft’s. In my opinion, the one reason Apple are in this position is because they understand the power of fantastic product design.

As a case in point, let me describe a recent trip to Best Buy. A couple of weeks ago my trusty MacBook Pro died. After hearing good things about Windows 7 and not agreeing with some of Apple’s recent policies, I decided to buy a new Windows laptop. After looking at every one in the store I realized that each one was more gaudy and plasticy than the last. From the strangely colored cases to the myriad of extra buttons, lights and nipples, they seemed like a collection of badly designed toys. I guiltily drifted over to the Mac area and checked out the the new MacBook Pro with its aluminum unibody, beautiful screen and minimalist controls. Eventually I walked out with one.

Apple understand that laptops and phones are the new watches and jewelry. We are using them majority of our waking life. They define us to the people around us. They need to be both functional and beautiful. Apple products have plenty of hardware and software issues, but people are willing to forgive them since the products are so nice to look at.

The amazing Android Phone Prototype above by Andrew Kim, shows the kind of phone that HTC need to build in order to knock the iPhone off the top of the most-wanted list. What happened to all the great Nokia and Erikson phones from a few years ago? Why are they not building Android phones? Why can’t Sony create a laptop as well-designed as the MacBook Pro?

Apple’s competitors need to get serious about design, both hardware and software. They need to invest in their design teams and hire the best and the brightest talent available.

Welcoming Our New Google Overlords (or Why I Chose Android Over the iPhone)

With the new Motorola Droid announced today, the web is a-twitter with smartphone opinions. This is a topic that people care about, since picking a smartphone is essentially choosing which mobile computer platform you will be using 24/7 for the next few years. Last year, like many tech nerds, I was plagued with the choice of which new phone to get. For me it was a toss up between the iPhone and the G1 (the only Android phone available at the time). In the end I went with the G1. Here are the factors that were important to me and why Android won:

Aesthetics

There’s no doubt about it – the iPhone is one of the sexiest pieces of hardware ever built. It’s a beautiful object straight from the future. The UI is slick, elegant, simple and miles ahead of the competition.

In comparison the G1 is a utilitarian, brick-like lump. It’s a bit like comparing a 1980′s Land Rover to a brand new Audi TT. Which you prefer comes down to personal taste. For the record, no one cares how cool your phone looks. Anyone buying an iPhone to improve their chances of getting laid has a sad series of disappointments ahead of them.

Speed

Although TechCrunch routinely bashes the G1′s speed, I’ve never had a problem with either the OS responsiveness or the web download speed. it. In my completely unscientific testing, the web download speed on the G1 consistently beats my friend’s iPhones.

Especially in nerd-friendly cities like San Francisco, AT&T’s 3G network is completely saturated with all the other iPhone users uploading videos of their cat. In comparison, T-Mobile’s 3G network is a traffic-free 6 lane highway.

Development Platform

Even ignoring Apple’s bafflingly opaque app approval process, developing for the iPhone is a pain. The iPhone’s arcane development process involves mastering pointers and memory management in Objective-C. AFAIK these skills are not transferable to any other platform. Developing for Android requires Java on Eclipse which seems much more reasonable. Also, the iPhone app store is already completely saturated. With Android usage about to explode, now is probably a good time to get into Android dev.

Openness

If you use are using an iPhone with Apple’s MobileMe, your personal data (email, contacts and calendar) is only transferable to another iPhone. Android seamlessly syncs with gMail, gCalender and Google’s contact list. If you use these tools it is trivial to switch between Android phones, or for that matter any device that can access the web.

A good example of the two company’s different attitudes toward data portability is Google’s Picasa versus Apple’s iPhoto. Both are great personal photo management applications. The difference is iPhoto locks you photos into a single monolithic proprietary file whereas Picasa works with your existing photo file structure. iPhoto does not allow you to share your library with anything except for other iPhoto instances.

Since Apple make money off hardware sales they are keen to lock you into their proprietary systems. Google are platform agnostic and have a proven commitment to keeping data sharable. The Data Liberation Front initiative is a good example of this.

Monetization Strategy

There is a big difference in how Apple and Google make money, and this has a profound effect on the nature of their phone OSs.

Apple make money on the iPhone by selling the hardware and by taxing you every time you use the app store. The app store offers no trials and no refunds. Apple takes 30% of every purchase. Apple want you to buy as many apps as possible. They are re-using the iTunes model that has been so successful in generating revenue for them.

Steve Ballmer touches on this in his much ridiculed quote:

“The Internet is not designed for the iPhone. That’s why they’ve got 75,000 applications — they’re all trying to make the Internet look decent on the iPhone.”

There is actually some truth to this quote. If I have a fast and full-featured web browser why do I need a Yelp app? I can just go to yelp.com. Why do I need a dictionary app when I can go to dictionary.com? Why do I need to buy a bunch of crappy games when I can find millions for free on the web? God knows how much some iPhone devotees have invested in their iPhone in terms of app purchases alone. I prefer to buy the hardware once, then get the content for free. That’s the beauty of the internet.

Related to this is the fact that Apple won’t allow Flash on the iPhone. They have a very good reason – if Flash ran well on the iPhone, half of the apps in the app store would become redundant. In contrast Google just signed up for the Open Screen Project and are committed to making Flash run well on Android. For better or worse, Flash is tightly ingrained into the web and any device that doesn’t support it is half-cocked.

Google’s monetization scheme is a lot more vague, long term and possibly nefarious. They can afford to give away Android for free in exchange for the potential to make money from mobile searches. In general, Google’s plan is to become so useful and ubiquitous that they become an indispensable part of all of our lives. After that, who knows? Since they have a virtual gold mine in AdWords revenue they can afford to put their efforts into long term world domination. (As an aside, does anyone understand how Google makes so much money from text ads that nobody ever clicks?)

Reliability

The iPhone hardware is beautiful, but if it fails at the same rate that my iPods have failed then I would be buying a new one every 6 months. The G1 is built by HTC who have a reputation for building solid, reliable products.

In terms of data reliability, it’s not controversial to say that Google’s engineering team are second to none. By contrast, MobileMe had an inauspicious start and has been up and down regularly since. Cloud based data management is just not Apple’s strength.

So for me it ultimately came down to who do I trust my personal data with: Apple or Google? I decided to embrace our new Google overlords and have since shunted all my data to their servers. If and when Google turns evil please don’t say I told you so.

A New 'Battle of the Planets' Movie !?!

gatchaman

I just found out that there is a new ‘Battle of the Planets’/G-Force/Gatchaman movie coming out!

I used to love BOTP as a kid in the 80s. The weirdness and the beautiful animation really made it stand out from the typical U.S. cartoon dross. It was only later that I found out the original Japanese version (Gatchaman) was a lot stranger and more violent.

It’s interesting that even though the show was butchered for the western market, the original spirit shone through. I wonder if as western kids we would have been able to handle the original version, or if we needed the sugar coating of more linear plot-lines, Casey Kasem and 7-Zark-7.