Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Apps should be conduits for web services

Beautiful designed apps should be conduits for web services. Or provide some form of “desktop” capability. Sync is important.

Brent Simmons recently wrote of Marco Arment

You know him from Tumblr, Instapaper, The Magazine, and (coming soon) Overcast.

You may think of Marco as an iOS developer — but every single one of those apps is a web service.

This thought process works very well with a presentation John Gruber gave at Web 2.0 Expo NY – watch the 10 minute video on Apple and the Open Web. He describes Apple as a “ht” company: they’ve embraced HTML and HTTP.

I look at my iPhone and think to myself what apps I use (i.e. have an icon on my screen) that are web apps:

  1. Google Calendar (direct web app, opens a browser window)
  2. RunKeeper
  3. Fitbit
  4. Withings
  5. Cardiio
  6. MyFitnessPal
  7. Chrome
  8. Mail
  9. TripIt
  10. Evernote
  11. Instapaper
  12. Kindle
  13. NewsBlur
  14. Hello (by Evernote)
  15. Skype
  16. Instagram
  17. Vine
  18. Rdio
  19. Spotify
  20. Google
  21. Reminders (stock Apple app, wonderful sync at work)
  22. Safari
  23. Facebook
  24. Foursquare
  25. Twitter
  26. KakaoTalk
  27. Line
  28. Messenger
  29. Hangouts
  30. Telegram
  31. Tweetbot
  32. Google+
  33. Dropbox
  34. 1Password
  35. Expensify
  36. MyTeksi
  37. Uber
  38. YouTube
  39. Paper
  40. Bloomberg

What isn’t a web app? Photos (though there is an iCloud Sync that I don’t use – I prefer it going to Dropbox), Camera, most of Apple’s standard apps (of course, FaceTime, Notes, Calendar – they all sync), DocScanner (syncs to Dropbox, but has no web app behind it), Snapseed, Camera+, 360 (has a web component though I never use it). Music/Podcasts theoretically sync with the web, but again, not my use case. I don’t consider Google Authenticator a web app either though I use it in conjunction with the web. Messages has iMessage but there isn’t a web interface (yet?).

We can argue that the messaging apps aren’t really web services. KakaoTalk/Line have desktop clients. Whatsapp is notoriously mobile-only. Viber/WeChat seem to be mobile only for me. Telegram leads the way by having a nice Chrome browser plugin. Skype is a desktop app.

That makes the majority of my apps that I use, really, web apps. My phone is a conduit to the Internet. This is why I consume data and WiFi.

My iPad is not much different – I use it a lot more for reading, and that includes the FT (fully HTML5 web + mobile app), WSJ, NYTimes, New Yorker, The Economist. OK, there’s GoodReader, iBooks, Zinio for offline reading too, a lot more magazines, and some office software – the iWork suite (which syncs to iCloud). A cool app like Penultimate (now free after Evernote purchased them – again syncs online).

This is the success metric for an app. No point building an application to have a F1 racing timetable (I get that from F1.com or a simple Google search). No point building an application that collects Malay proverbs (I can search for that if I was interested; or if it was the English context, I’d just look up wikiquote).

Games seem to be an exception to this, but as I have never played games and don’t intend to start (I don’t grok the mind of a gamer, sorry), I’ll pass on overall commentary. 

Ai Weiwei – Evidence

I was fortunate enough to have some free time earlier today evening, and headed over to the Martin-Gropius-Bau to catch the Ai Weiwei (@aiww)exhibition titled Evidence. This is the first time I’ve seen Ai Weiwei’s work as I missed it at the Tate Modern in London a while back.

He is a modern artists. Playing around with a lot of different materials to come up with his artwork. And he makes use of the Web. I guess his claim to fame is that he’s all for freedom of speech & expression (something that’s hard to do in China – a dissident he is, if you must), and the fact that he’s a documenter of modern happenings (everyone is interested at the amazing pace of growth in China – he shows that by video recordings of highways, or driving around and recording his journey as an example).

For me, I was really moved by Zodiac Heads (Circle of Animals). I would so grab the rat, tiger and dog as examples! 

China in ten years (I first went to Beijing in 2004 – it has changed a lot in a decade) has become a lot more materialistic. The car of choice used to be the Audi; it still is, but you find a lot of other luxury vehicles on the roads nowadays in Beijing. So the Han Dynasty vases painted with metallic paint from BMW & Mercedes was great for cultural insight. Culturally, the want of antiques is also high and the Table & Chest with stripped chairs was also interesting – remove 1mm sheen from Ming Dynasty furniture and they look like new. What is the purpose of antiques again?

I enjoyed his Study of Perspectives (a selection at moma) as well. He goes to famous landmarks and takes a photo with his left middle finger.

He portrays the disputed islands (between China & Japan). I loved the stools because they each tell a story (6,000 of them). I enjoyed his re-enactment of how he was held captive by the Chinese authorities for some time. It’s shocking to see how you would sleep with a light on, always be watched by security guards and have everything covered up – where you have to do your own laundry and the only thing you get are 6 hangers. Its sad to see that his studio in Shanghai was demolished at a moment’s notice – but he made artwork out of it. He showed the evidence that was confiscated (lots of laptops/video recorders/PCs).

A protest pre-demolition involved river crabs (he xie). Guess that’s the beauty of the Chinese language :)

If you get the chance to check Ai Weiwei’s work out, its well worth it and will take you a good 2 hours (read a review in The Economist). You can’t take photos inside, but you will leave with a lot of memories. If you can’t see this one in Berlin, check out a video: Ai Weiwei – Dumbass. At five minutes long, it makes my video of the week.

An encounter with Thierry Noir

Artist Thierry Noir with his first exhibition after a 30-year careerWhile looking for a coffee, at about 7.50pm, we popped into the Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch. Looked at a lot of amazing work from Thierry Noir. Headed downstairs and saw some more interesting work, and then an unassuming man asked me if I liked the work. I said I did. He said thank you. I then asked him if he was the artist itself — he said yes! 

Here I was talking to Thierry Noir! I had seen his work years ago when I visited Berlin with my family (his paintings are still on the Berlin Wall, at the East Side Gallery). We chatted, he was very down to earth, and we talked about his favourite works. This is his first solo exhibition in this thirty year career! I picked up a book, he graciously autographed it in a way only he can.

He lives in Berlin normally, and funnily enough my next stop was to be Berlin :) Many useful resources are listed below, but if you happen to be in London, check out the Howard Griffin Gallery, 04 April – 5 May 2014.

Gallery closes at 8pm, we left shortly thereafter. Still amazed how chance sometimes just works out.

In other news, Richard Howard-Griffin, director of the gallery, is immensely young, probably discovered street artist John Dolan (wiki), had an exhibition earlier for George the dog John the artist (John is always seen with his dog George; now has a book deal, life’s changed tremendously for him), and now hooks up artists to do collaborations (John Dolan x Thierry Noir coming up soon). Wish I picked up some of Dolan’s works and it is amazing what Howard-Griffin has achieved.

Avatar update

I just updated my Twitter avatar to a caricature, created entirely on an iPad, in about five minutes, at the Percona Live Santa Clara expo hall, at the MariaDB/SkySQL booth. It was done by Doug Shannon, the owner of EventToons. I’ve seen him before at the SkySQL booths, but never did get a chance to get a caricature done by him. Kinda glad that I just got one. Let’s see how this works and for how long this lasts.

Colin

Destination Anywhere

I loved the Destination Anywhere album by Jon Bon Jovi back in 1997. It was an interesting time in my growth. It was only recently that I learned of the film (yes, it was an original soundtrack). I managed to watch it today, and its very interesting – a highly recommended watch, especially if you’ve listened to the album. 

It’s a 45-minute movie, and was apparently created to promote the film. It is a dark and very emotional film. Plenty of references to the Hotel Chelsea (which I’ve seen from the outside, read a lot about and has a vivid history). I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. I highly recommend it.

On device ecosystems

Thirsty monkeyI was just listening This week in google #236, and they were talking about device ecosystems. The topic of smartwatches came up obviously. The first Samsung Galaxy Gear was apparently not a good seller because it had a limited app ecosystem and it was tied to just a few devices (I only know one person who has said watch, and wears it regularly).

If Apple builds an iWatch, they will tie it into the iOS ecosystem. This is why Leo Laporte the host likes the Pebble – it works with all his devices.

How many people are Leo with an iPhone and an Android phone? And whatever else is compatible with the Pebble? End users (consumers) usually have one phone. There’s nothing wrong with the iWatch to be tied into the iOS ecosystem — its an awesome ecosystem. Soon you may get cars with iOS on it (just like you can get cars with Linux on it).

The iWatch if Apple makes one will probably be compatible all the way back to the iPhone 4S. It should cover most iOS/iPhone users. And just like the apps you buy in the app store when the iPad came along (first you had iPhone only apps, with double-size; then you had separate iPad apps that would cost more; nowadays many apps are “universal” to work on both and cost the same), I expect something similar will happen with the iWatch. 

That said, I like my analogue watches. I had no interest in the Pebble or the Samsung Galaxy Gear. I’d be interested to see what they do with version 2, which has Tizen (even less apps maybe?). When Apple releases an iWatch, you can be sure I’d probably buy it — I have seen things from all sides, and I like their ecosystem.


i