Re: Dribbble and The Creation of The Useless Designer

Michael Abehsera:

Today the Dribbble community grew into desiring complete aesthetic Porn, with “function” going out the window and only caring about “form”. Designers are sitting there for hours trying to make a “shot” beautiful (…) Last time I checked design was about solving problems, and that’s why I was excited about becoming a designer. I think we should start penalizing and neglecting designs like the above examples and reward with more “likes” the designers that post different work that has a fresh approach on different problems.

I think Dribbble solves a different problem: it allows designers to showcase their visual skills, to experiment, act like cool etc. It is also big and thus full of mediocre, me-too designs, overdone animations, shadows and blurs. If you can accept this, then you can also deduct the fact that solving design problems might just happen somewhere else, and Dribbble is just fine the way it is and people can give likes any way they want. (Ironically on his homepage Abehsera is not solving any design problems, but showcases screenshots one after the other.)

Can Mike Hearn kill Bitcoin?

Given the recent outburst and leave from Mike Hearn, here is a post of a sage, Gavin Andersen, who stays strong and remains the Chief Scientist of Bitcoin:

Clever engineers will find ways to work around around the limit, whether that is ‘extension blocks’ or the lightning network or a sidechain that everybody moves their coins to doesn’t really matter. I’d prefer a nice, simple, clean solution, but I’m old enough to know that most of the world’s great technologies are built on top of horrifying piles of legacy cruft, and they work just fine pretty much all of the time.

After banned from Reddit, Hearn has joined a consortium of banks. What a tool. Stepping back, the whole stunt was only good for helping the concept survive. This was a good call and people now will work together and solve the problems. But first some blood will be shed.

Safari 9.1 goodies

Apple yesterday announced the feature set from the upcoming update coming to iOS and OS X. They will also ship Safari 9.1 with dozens of new features – here is the changelog. It will support CSS variables (no need to preprocess those), drops prefix from CSS filters, the usual improvements to the Inspector and so on, but here is something I like, the landing of the picture element:

I remembered that I’d blogged about this three years back to the day in 2013. The picture element is nice, the browser will decide what size of asset it has to download for the device. For older browsers that don’t support the element, well, they’ll fall back to IMG SRC.

The elusive secret levels in Super Mario Advance 4

Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3 (GBA) is now out on the Wii U eShop. Why is this such a huge deal? And what’s with this confusing name?

I’ll explain. First, there have been four Super Mario Advance games for the GameBoy Advance which all have been remakes of original classics. In 2001 Nintendo released “Super Mario Advance” which was based on “Super Mario Bros 2”, the same year SMA2, which was a “Super Mario World” SNES port, then came SMA3 “Yoshi’s Island”, another SNES port in 2002 and finally in 2003 SMA4, which is a port of the iconic “Super Mario Bros 3”.

The game plays the same as SMB3, but with updated graphics. This is all good, but there is a catch, too: the US and JP versions had a special world, called World-e in the system. This world could unlock special levels (and special abilities) with the compatible Nintendo e-reader hardware (not sold in the EU). The unlocking mechanism was quite interesting: the map data was not in the game, just the tiles, sprites, mechanics etc, therefore you really had to get your hands on the cards to upload the levels, hacking the ROM itself didn’t lead you anywhere.

One of these levels is “Mad Dash” (unofficial translation). This level was not circulated on e-reader cards, in order to obtain this level, you had to bring your GBA and game to select retailers (in Japan!) where they’d upload the level to you. And if you did all this? Well, you had a speedrun level where you need to finish the level in just 20 seconds, so at max speed. Here is a playthrough on the level:

If you played all these special levels, you would find “Advance coins” scattered around, which would open up these Toad houses you see above on the minimap, where you could play three minigames. Better yet, certain levels contain “e-coins” scattered that you can only pick up once.

e-coins have a striking resemblance to Super Mario Makers’ medals

Upon collected, these coins are then just displayed in the World-e castle. The castle has 8×3 = 24 displays, but only the first 8 coins is obtainable from the released secret levels (and out of those 8, only cards for 3 were released in the US), so the remainder 16 slot will forever be empty. Nintendo had more plans for the e-reader cards, but I guess it didn’t turn out the way it should’ve.

I found ROM hackers on long forgotten forums who’d recreated the Mad Dash level, I was also able to source the savegame itself and whatnot, but the icing on the cake is that Nintendo has released this game just before new years with all these levels. Unfortunately only for the JP market, without English translation, but anyway, there is now a chance to experience World-e once again! (I’m secretly hoping for an EU release and for the 3DS.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Has the spoiler-alert threshold been passed? If yes, here is a Force Awakens review by Matt Drance:

The plot is a lazy, messy recreation of A New Hope: stuff hidden in a droid; wistful hero in the desert; Millennium Falcon; setpiece; genocide; setpiece; sneaky base infiltration; trench run; lightsabers; explosion. There are countless on-the-nose moments typical of an Abrams film. One particularly silly scene, where the old and new Death Stars are compared side-by-side, is betrayed by a preceding trailer for Independence Day 2, which features Jeff Goldblum achingly declaring “That is definitely… bigger than the last one.”

These were the bad parts. Then he goes to write about the good ones, too.

Me? I watched the movie and I really liked it. I could pick on things, but I’m just going to write this: it was good cinema.

60 minutes – Inside Apple

It’s very hard to resist the urge to go to an Apple Store and just buy something after seeing this – marketing? – video. I mean, how could you make a segment of the worlds number 1 business who is full of secrets without the accusation that it was just marketing and working our brains that they’re something special and noone else out there is? There isn’t much to learn, but it is good entertainment and builds the myth properly.

A couple of things I liked. First, you get to see Ive’s designers. Although for just a couple of cutaway shots, but they’re there, pretending they’re doing actual job. Then here are two sketches of what seems to had been designed by Ive himself (or at least this is how I understood):

“This is still Steve’s company” – Cook made me feel happy.

Charlie Rose is very professional when it comes to his craft of talking to people and I think he was in a position where he could press Cook on several fronts. He immediately recognizes when someone is trying to talk around what he is trying to know, he knows how to cut in to Cook, it’s all very good. This is not to say we get to know trade secrets, but it was entertaining to watch.

Here is a question asked from Cook that was the most subtle thing I’ve ever heard:

“How hard is it to say, Apple will be in the car business?”

Even Cook smiled on the elegance. My interpretation is that they’re in the car business. At the end, visiting the new campus, Ive was wearing a white construction workers hat with a gray Apple logo on it and concluded the segment, when asked, that his office will be on the top floor.

If you’re interested in seeing the segment, here is a pointer where to go to download.

The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font

Nikhil Sonnad for QZ:

The most fundamental unit of a character is the “stroke.” Think of a stroke as a single motion during which the writer does not lift her writing implement. The character for “two” is 二 and, intuitively, contains exactly two strokes. A more complicated character is 灣, the wan in Taiwan, which is made up of 25 strokes.

These strokes come together to form the 214 “radicals” of Chinese. These are usually components contained within larger characters, and each has its own meaning, like “water” (氵) or “fur” (毛) or “speech” (言). A character is usually one or more radicals—which give it meaning—along with other parts that suggests how it should be pronounced. You might notice that the wan (灣) character mentioned above contains the “water” radical on its left side; that’s because this character means “bay,” which is a very watery thing.

I rarely read long articles on the internet, but I read this one line by line.

ITC Serif Gothic is back

Yves Peters at FontShop:

More than just a new installment in the insanely popular franchise, the new film by J.J. Abrams seems to be bringing back many elements from the beloved original trilogy, one example being the dirtier, shabby version of machinery and technology. And then there is the return of some familiar faces we never dared hope to see again, like Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca. However there is one familiar face whose return went largely unnoticed to anyone but us type geeks – the ITC Serif Gothic® typeface.

This is the only post you need to read about the new Star Wars movie.

My dinner with André (1981)

Roger Ebert in 1999:

Someone asked me the other day if I could name a movie that was entirely devoid of clichés. I thought for a moment, and then answered, “My Dinner With Andre.”

This was the call sign for me to watch this movie. It is very good. If you’re done with the movie, go and read the article above (but not before). Next up: Vanya on 42nd street (1994) and A Master Builder (2013). The three films got a simultaneous release recently in the summer by Criterion.

Site Up

Matt Aussaguel:

[W]e’re excited to expand today to the world of site design and development with SiteUp, a place for designers and front-end developers to find inspiration and resources, through a daily showcase.

You can use SiteUp in two ways: share your own work to get exposure and feedback from like-minded peers, and find the resources and inspiration you need to create sites. On the showcase you can share UI concepts, front-end resources, really cool experiments – one of my favorites ;), live sites… and as always prototypes are most welcome (Videos, FramerJS, CodePen, InVision or Marvel)!

The real beauty of it is that you can interact with the site creators, see what technologies they’ve used to make it (programming language, framework, fonts, etc.) and try the site in different resolutions from SiteUp directly. You can see an example here – make sure to hit ‘Launch it’.

Worth checking out.

Apple Smart Battery case is good, embrace it

The internet has gone all out on the announced Apple Smart Battery Case, but I, for one, am welcoming towards the “lump”. The design is a clear indication that you hold extra battery in your palm. If I was in a need for some extra juice, I’d buy this. Wired has tested it:

There are no indicator lights that show the case’s battery, and no on/off switch that will initiate charge, instead the case acts like it’s part of your battery. If you put your phone in the case when it has less than 100 percent, the case will start to charge it. When the case’s battery is gone, your iPhone will use its own battery. How do you know what percentage the case is at? Pull down the Notification Center and an icon will appear near the top telling you how much juice is left in your phone and case. It’s a cool little detail that shows off Apple’s inter-device compatibility, but it’s also the only way you can gauge the case’s battery. The case has a Lightning port for charging, which means you can plug in your iPhone in its case and charge both at the same time. This adds to the illusion that your case becomes one with your iPhone, and you never have to take it off.

This is all good and that’s how I’d have designed it.

[t]he performance of the case isn’t that great. The 1,877 mAh battery won’t even give you a full charge from zero percent.

A recurring element is that a case that doesn’t provide a full charge is shit. Come on. Do we really need to get into the same arguments over and over again when Apple releases something?

Here is someone from Reddit:

Form of function = complains
Function over form = complains
Steve Jobs alive = complains
Steve Jobs dead = complains
Apple makes an Android app = losing sales
Apple doesn’t make an Android app = assholes
Apple starts iPad Pro at 32GB = why no 16GB option
iPad gets split screen = copied Microsoft
iPad doesnt have split screen = stuck in 2008

The smart battery case was never meant to fully charge your phone. It’s a battery extension for your phone where the lump seamlessly integrates with your phone, giving you the extra battery. It’s an official gadget, integrates with your notification center, in true Apple style hides as many technical details as possible, and THAT IS IT.

Design is good.

Product is solid.

Jony Ive is the man.