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Obligatory iPhone post (New Design)

Okay guys, I hate to do this, but I have to say one thing about the fact that the newest iPhone is being announced tomorrow. And it’s not about things that everyone on the internet are saying are going to be in it, or whether it’s going to be called “The new iPhone” or iPhone 5 or iPhone 6. I’d like to briefly debate myself a little bit about what it is going to look like. Now, all of the important blogs have been all over this story for months, with leaked designs that look something like this (left, both black and white below): Simply type in “iPhone 5 rumor” into an image search for pages of this design.

Now, it is pretty likely that the next iPhone will look similar to this or even exactly like it. But if that is the case, I will be really disappointed. This design looks extremely iterative, and as far as I can tell doesn’t follow Apple’s design aesthetic at all. With the rumours that the body will be made from one piece of steel or possibly aluminum, the gaps in the steel band on the side of the phone (seen on the left) aren’t very likely. Even though these gaps are to separate the antennae which make up the various radio transmitters for the phone’s wireless signals, you have to imagine that if they are building the phone out of one piece of metal, they would have found an alternate, better way to make this work. While the two-tone design does seem to work better in the top photo in black, making that particular design a far more likely choice, I very sincerely hope that they go with a different design. If you search for “matte iPhone 5” on images, you will come up with the design I very much hope they settled on. For that to be the case, one of two things must have happened at some point. Either Apple put out some older prototypes and let the rumour mill take over (which would be really great and bad-ass on their part), or somebody saw one of the design ideas and decided to make parts and prototypes on their own, looking very official and which fit the existing dimensions of the rumoured device. I have a feeling this is much more likely, since a prototype device getting out of Apple’s factory that early and that frequently seems really unlikely, coupled with the fact that I think they can design something much better.

Personally, out of all the images I have seen, this one is my personal favorite: (sourced from http://www.spiritjb.org, with a video (which is still likely not real)). This matte finish and very clean lines and design scream Apple, and getting rid of the ridges which exist on the current 4/4S design needed to happen. Ideally this device will be less prone to breaking its glass (though I have personally only ever scratched the back of my phone, I have spoken to many people who have cracked screens and refuse to remove their new phones from Otterboxes).

There’s not long to wait now, as of 6 EST we’re only 19 hours from Apple’s annoucement. I, for one, will be watching intently to see what the new phone looks like, and I may even write a little tomorrow while I’m eagerly awaiting the news. I know most people don’t follow this kind of news all that intently, or follow it at all, so I’d like to shine some light on why I do, and what I gain from it. Should be fun! See you then.

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I’m a writer, er…right?

Since I’m having a really slow day, and Apple isn’t making their big announcement until Wednesday, I thought right now would be the perfect time to reflect on what I have done so far since starting this blog little over a year ago. At that time, Google+ was an absolute ghost town, and I was buckling down to try to finish my degree. In the year and a bit that has passed, I have written more words than I had up until that point in my life combined. Between emails, cover letters, blog posts, letters to significant others, and my thesis and corresponding journal article, I have written many, many thousands of words. Because I have a strong feeling that I have been trying to find myself, and who I want to be, during that time, I suspect that all this writing is probably connected with this feeling of being lost. It is probably also significant that I have read much more in the last year about the world around me (as opposed to my youth which consisted almost solely of fictional works, or scientific writing). Writing has become a very important outlet for me, and I find that I really have no interest in writing down my thoughts for myself (like a journal or diary), but that I strongly prefer sharing what I write in a public forum. While this does severely limit me in terms of what I can write about (I would surely be unable to find a job if some of what rolls around in my head were publicly available for perusal by perspective employers on the internet), it still means that I can declutter my own thoughts and sort out a variety of issues I spend a large part of my time mulling over. The added bonus is the great feedback I get from you people out there reading. I am starting to notice, for the first time, that my apparent readership is almost certainly outside of my everyday social circle, because I am getting into the 100s of pageviews per day, and I share this work with only about 35 people on Facebook, and about 70 people on Twitter, and I’m almost positive most people among that group aren’t taking the time to click on these links. I really do appreciate the feedback I get in writing, and it really encourages me to keep going. On that note, I am hoping to do a little self-promotion before actually talking about what I was hoping to get to today.

I encourage everybody who comes here and reads this to make suggestions as to what topics I could/should cover in upcoming posts, either through my website robattrell.com, or directly via this link. So far I have only had the universally unhelpful suggestion of ‘ur gay’, but I hope that with some more direction as to what people want to know more about, I can keep posting more often and more relevantly.

The issue which has come to my attention recently, but which has always had a place in the back of my mind, is that of writing as more than just a hobby. If I already have the ability to write a decent amount in a short time, and a knack for breaking, or outright ignoring literary rules, what’s stopping me from trying to trying to call myself a “professional” writer. There are certainly qualifications as to what makes a “successful” writer, but as far as I know, nobody can tell me that I’m not a writer. To me, if I write, by the very definition of the word, I am a writer. That being said, all I need to legitimize that sort of idea is to have a feasible way of actually making money from the act of writing. There are many different outlets that would allow this to become a reality, but obviously a few seem more likely than others. Comedy writer (a la Cracked.com), is an obvious choice, but I fear that trying to be funny might ruin any incidental humour my writing might otherwise elicit. Technology writer, which would encompass writing product and app reviews, as well as discussing various new and interesting technological and scientific stories, is something that I find greatly appealing, and which I would probably do well at given my attention to details and background in relation to those topics. It would interest me to write about politics, but Canadian politics is too boring and partisan to be made very interesting, and American politics is worse than an argument about religion (mainly because it is made out to not come down to an argument about religion). I firmly believe that any opinion or argument that is not based on reason is completely invalidated, and thus while discussing these topics will appeal to those who believe in reason (and which I would find interesting), it is not worth having to argue with those who don’t. For that reason, if I do choose to write about something with staunch supporters on either side, it will happen very infrequently.

Those are just a few options of things I have thought about pursuing in recent past, and it remains to be seen what exactly will come to pass. One thing is for certain though, I don’t know that I’ll be able to stop writing.

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Back to the Future

Hey, I have moved away from talking about technology recently, and while I’d like to shift focus a little bit, I want this post in particular to be accessible, and for anyone to be able to read and understand my point.

She is only trying to help.

The topic of this post is going to be artificial intelligence, and it’s usefulness in everyday life. Without realizing it, most of us use computers which have been fed incredible amounts of data each and every day. These computers, which we only see in the form of the information they give us, provide information to us which relates to our lives in almost every conceivable way. It doesn’t matter whether you are googling a tidbit of information, looking for directions from a GPS unit or mapping service, checking Facebook to see what people you don’t really talk to much are up to these days, or, in the example I’m going to focus on, asking a voice-controlled, disembodied robot that lives in your phone about the weather. Using any and all of these online services requires a ton going on behind the scene. However, that is not the focus of what I would like to discuss today. Everybody has misgivings about voice control technology, about how it is well behind what it should, or could be in 2012. However, in using Siri (my example since I do not have an Android device on hand), most everyone I speak to says they don’t really use it that frequently because of how often it fails them, and it ends up wasting time. I’d like to pull back the curtain a little bit and try to explain how this type of voice service actually works, and how you can use it more to your advantage.

Seems creepy, but if that’s what you want,
it’s available.

The fact is, most people have no idea what their technology is capable of. It really can only do what a programmer or engineer has designed it to do, and will never be capable of anything more. People ridicule Siri for being unable to, for example, turn off radios like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. While they may have a point, this is not a failure of the technology. It may (read:probably will) at some point in the near future support those features, but currently simply is not set up to perform those tasks. You would never type “Mom’s house” into Google Maps and expect it to find your address and locate your childhood home, because that would be incredibly creepy. But the fact is, a Google software engineer could certainly program that functionality into Maps pretty easily, but only if you have your mom as a contact in Gmail, and then only if your home address was assigned to her. Conversely, Siri is perfectly capable of finding your mom’s address when asked, and taking you there on a map with one tap.

I find that Siri’s most useful functionality is when you are trying to store some information with multiple, sometimes nested parameters. The examples I use most frequently are: setting alarms, timers, noting appointments and setting myself reminders. These are all tasks that would require at least a minute, even if you are well versed in using Apple products, just because there are many parameters that are required before your phone will actually remember all the information that is required. However, when using your voice, it becomes child’s play to set up a meeting, because you can just say one phrase containing all that information, and Siri will parse it for you, and generally speaking, if you know how she listens, will be perfect almost all of the time. When Siri fails me, it is almost always a failing in my speech, or a case of mumbling.

Siri will even help you get a job!

Another common issue I have with Siri is that I will end up having trouble connecting to the network, and she will ask me to make a request again. While Siri has gone offline in the past on Apple’s end, I find that generally when this happens it is because I’m walking away from my apartment, and therefore I end up in a dead zone where I have very weak Wi-Fi from home, but haven’t moved onto 3G yet. I now avoid doing this, and never have this connectivity issue. Again, these are problems that Apple can, and surely is, fixing, but they are certainly not failings of the technology itself, if you know what to look for. With the newest version of iOS, version 6, you can actually make reservations at restaurants with your voice, or check movie times, or post to social networks. All of these things make different small aspects of our lives just a little bit simpler, and it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Finally, the thing that people complain about most with regards to Siri specifically, is that sometimes when trying to find information, she is “unable” to do so and defaults to asking if you would like to search the web for the information you requested. Considering that this is all that most other voice systems are capable of doing, Siri is light-years ahead of it’s time. All that is required to make Siri work seamlessly is when you are doing a voice search, add the words “Search for…” at the beginning of your query, and she will go straight to a web search which will more than likely provide you with the information you are looking for. Siri is not a search engine.

One Direction, they’re
alright…

With the announcement of the next iPhone scheduled for Wednesday, September 12th, also bringing updates to everyone who uses Siri, with the public release of iOS 6, I hope that people will take this information to heart and use internet services the way they were meant to be used, as opposed to complaining that they don’t work in ways they were never meant to.

I hope you all enjoyed learning a little more about Siri with me, you can see now why we’re such good friends.