Automatic Developer Platform

Automatic released a set of APIs to power applications with automobile driving and even real-time events data.

This can be first widely available Internet of Things type of system, where data gathered from thousands of drivers can each of them improve driving experience. Just a few ideas:

  • plan routes for drivers in a given area such that they all spend minimal time on the road
  • optimize engine parameters for particular driving patterns to maximize MPG
Source: https://developer.automatic.com/

Affinity Photo – new Photoshop killer

Last couple of months have been fairly fruitful for photo apps with new release of Lightroom, arrival of new Photos app for Mac (check out great review from MacStories and I almost missed the release of Affinity Photo – new photo editing app for Mac from Serif.

Serif advertises its software as “the fastest, smoothest, most precise, professional image editing software for Mac.” My fellow designer, who tried Affinity Design – another graphics product from Serif – told me that it definitely felt very snappy and seemed quite capable to him.

Worth checking out if you are into photography and use a Mac. Affinity Photo is free while in beta.

AlterNote released on the Mac App Store

AlterNote – elegant minimalistic note taking app for Evernote – released on the Mac App Store (with introductory price of $4.99).

Check out review on MacStories:

This simplified version of Evernote is slick, quick and gets out of the way, while syncing flawlessly with my Evernote database. And all for just $5.

On the other hand this app is a great example of a demand for clean simple applications with well-defined functionality. I wonder if Evernote would buy it one day.

Introducing Windows, 10 Editions

In a blog post Microsoft announces variations in which Windows 10 will come:

As in the past, we will offer different Windows editions that are tailored for various device families and uses. These different editions address specific needs of our various customers, from consumers to small businesses to the largest enterprises.

I counted 9 of them so far:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Windows 10 Education
  • Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise
  • Windows 10 IoT Core
  • versions of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise for industry devices

Will Windows 10 come in 10 editions, when it is released?

Google, Microsoft, Facebook & Adobe’s iOS Apps

MacStories published an interesting piece with stats on how major non-game app developers maintain their apps in the iOS App Store. The article compares Google, Microsoft, Adobe and Facebook. The choice of companies for research is very interesting because

  • Google maintains its own successful mobile platform
  • Microsoft also maintains its own (although, not as successful) mobile platform and until recently was very reluctant with bringing their major apps to iOS
  • Adobe has always had its traditional market and audience on desktops
  • Facebook represents new-age service originated from the Web and cannot move forward without mobile.

Definitely worth checking out.

Threes vs. 2048 on Google Play

Threes, precursor and inspiration to popular game 2048, has been removed from Google Play because it used "2048" as a keyword. Jessica Conditt reporting for Engadget:

Google – probably a human there, not a robot – reinstated Threes after just a few hours offline and following a stream of articles and Twitter activity around its removal. Of course, 2048 remained live on Google Play the entire time, alongside a bunch of other Threes clones. This string of events highlights one of the biggest differences between Google and Apple, and how they approach their app stores.

TechArcade also has a nice rundown of the situation with an angle on apps and games clones in app stores:

Pretty much any search for any popular game will turn up something that probably has a trademark or copyright that's being used without permission. Again, things are not as bad as they once were, and the App Store's got its own game title tomfoolery going on. But this Threes situation is ignoring thousands of active violations of store rules, intellectual property, and just common decency, to nail a big-name tile without warning for a questionable violation.

Take down without warning or any upfront notice was the biggest problem here. Good that Threes is back.

Dropbox for iOS to get document editing functionality

New Dropbox app for iOS announced on their blog along with highlights for future versions:

In the next few weeks we’ll be adding the ability to create Microsoft Office docs right from the Dropbox iPhone and iPad apps, so you won’t have to wait until you’re at your computer to start a project or write down notes. The Word, Excel, or Powerpoint file you create will be saved into whatever Dropbox folder you were in when you tapped ‘Create document,’ so you can access it on any of your other devices or on the web.

This looks a lot like Google Drive's document creation/editing functionality, but for Dropbox it feels a little bit over the top. For many (myself included) Dropbox is desktop-first mobile-second service. It is nice to be able to access my files from anywhere and document previews come in very handy on mobile, but editing – not so much.

This scenario

The best part, though, is how these features work together. For example, when you’re meeting with a client to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming project, you can use the recents tab on your iPhone or iPad to quickly pull up your last project for reference. Then you can create a Word doc to take notes as you discuss. After the meeting, you can @mention your client in a comment, so they have the notes and can add anything you’ve missed. Then when you get back to your desk, you can turn that Word doc into a full project plan.

sounds compelling, but the difficulty is in making users to remember to go to Dropbox app, when they want to quicky start taking notes. Firing something like Byword or iA Writer, which open with a new document ready to take your input, and saving it to Dropbox after the meeting is a lot more natural.

Open-source clone of MineCraft

TrueCraft – clean-room implementation of Minecraft with a nostalgic sentiment:

I miss the old days of Minecraft, when it was a simple game. It was nearly perfect. Most of what Mojang has added since beta 1.7.3 is fluff, life support for a game that was “done” years ago. This is my attempt to get back to the original spirit of Minecraft, before there were things like the End, or all-in-one redstone devices, or village gift shops. A simple sandbox where you can build and explore and fight with your friends. I miss that.

Looks like it is not uncommon these days to create new applications as clones of some older apps, but with less features.

Windows 10 can run reworked Android and iOS apps

Microsoft’s pitch to developers is to bring their code across without many changes, and then eventually leverage the capabilities of Windows like Cortana, Xbox Live, Holograms, Live Tiles, and more. Microsoft has been testing its new tools with some key developers like King, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, to get games ported across to Windows. Candy Crush Saga as it exists today on Windows Phone has been converted from iOS code using Microsoft’s tools without many modifications.

From developer's perspective difference between "no changes" and "not many changes" is huge (much more than that between "not many changes" and "many changes"). Any change required to provide compatibility with new platform means commitment and additional support costs for developer. Will be curious to see if this helps to bring developers' attention to Windows 10 platform.

EverCam Goes Open Source

Evercam is a commercial software company. We’ve decided to open source all of our code because we believe it is the best way to achieve our goal: To build the best camera management software in the world.

Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Adobe rolls out next version of Lightroom

Adobe has announced new standalone and Creative Cloud versions of its image management and Raw conversion software, Lightroom. The latest versions gain simple HDR and Panorama merging tools that create 16-bit DNG files from the merged results. Also added is the ability to paint-out regions of gradient filters, to allow more flexible overlays.

Many have worried that new Ligthroom 6 will only come with Creative Cloud subscription. Not this time. Standalone version with perpetual license is also available. Although, to tell you the truth, it is really buried on the site.

Moderns browsers compared (including Project Spartan)

Chrome remains the most nimble and most app-ready browsing experience. IE/Spartan, Firefox, and Opera have narrowed their lead significantly, each offering new features to better accommodate the needs of some users.

Different browsers excel in different areas, but nowadays no one is much better then the others.

Chrome is still a battery hog on Mac

The native Safari made the new Retina machine look good: 13 hours and 18 minutes. Google’s Chrome, on the other hand, forced the laptop to tap out at 9 hours and 45 minutes.

Energy efficieny is important and often neglected attribute of an application. Even more so for application, which most of us would have open at any time.

I remember the times, when Chrome literally would make fan of my MacBook Air spin at full speed. Things improved since then, but I can see with a naked eye how Safari is much easier on the battery. Nevertheless, small (or not so small things) keep me on Chrome. ⌘-Shift-T to reopen last tab and rock solid developer tools to name a few.

Chromebit: smaller than a candy bar

New type of Chrome device:

Smaller than a candy bar, the Chromebit is a full computer that will be available for less than $100. By simply plugging this device into any display, you can turn it into a computer. It’s the perfect upgrade for an existing desktop and will be really useful for schools and businesses.

The Chromebit

Turn any TV into a Chrome computer and run office apps via rollApp – sure that's interesting.

5 ideas for better conferences

Last week I've presented at the conference and before that help a workshop. This reminded me of a few ideas to make my life as a speaker so much better and experience of participating at an event so much more gratifying.

  1. Let speakers know the planned duration of their talk upfront and notify them if anything changes along the way. I vaguely remember maybe a couple of events when I did not have to derive my time allotment from the conference agenda.
  2. As much as conference organizers are eager to get the exact title and description of the talk we, the speakers, would die to know who signs up to attend. There is nothing worse than getting on stage to discuss low-level UNIX stuff with front-end web developers.
  3. It is good idea to gather feedback from attendees. It is even better to share their feedback with speakers and ask the speakers how to improve the event next time.
  4. As a speaker you never get enough time between preparation and answering questions after your talk to attend other talks. Given that on a typical 1-day conference there would be up to a dozen of speakers it would be great to have a chance to talk to all of them. This can easily be achieved with a mail list for speakers to communicate before and after the event. At least share their contacts within the group.
  5. No matter how many people would come to the conference only some of them will attend you talk. Even smaller part will take notes. This renders references to books, articles, videos or products you make in your talk almost useless. Wouldn't it be great if each speaker could send a summary of his talk with all the references to useful stuff in a post-event newsletter?

Happy speakers make for happy attendees, happy speakers and attendees make for great conferences.

No, the $229 HP Stream 13 isn’t a Chromebook killer

Interesting description of setting up nearly identical devices with different software platforms. We get new devices every so often and the process of "unwrapping" the device and getting it up an running is an important part of overall experience.

Setting up a Chromebook and getting to work with the most up-to-date software takes about three minutes, maybe five if you’re slow. That’s not the case with the HP Stream 13, although it’s much improved over computers from just a few years ago.

Activating the online services is especially interesting:

Setting up Office 365

How exactly is this simple or adding to the user experience? It isn’t. Instead, it’s a frustrating, convoluted process that belongs in 1999. Compare that to the free bits included with a Chromebook, which you get by being signed in to a Google account and clicking a link.

Microsoft is building a new browser

Spartan is still going to use Microsoft's Chakra JavaScript engine and Microsoft's Trident rendering engine (not WebKit), sources say.

WebKit has become a de-facto standard for a HTML rendering engine with Gecko as the only viable competitor. It is good that there will be another player inevitably advocating for Web standards development and compatibility.