Pay Your Way To The Top

April 15th, 2016

A new report from Bloomberg is potentially going to cast some shadows over the AppStore:

Apple Inc. has constructed a secret team to explore changes to the App Store, including a new strategy for charging developers to have their apps more prominently displayed, according to people familiar with the plans.

If this report will end up being true, there could potentially be massive repercussion on the majority of small indy-developers.

As of today, the AppStore is the home of several million apps, most of which are good, with an overwhelming majority of spam, copycat and just generally terrible second tier apps. The problem is that the search function is terrible and so it’s almost impossible to have to good app surface above the rest of the crowd.

Now, if Apple has really created a new team in charge to solve this issue, why would they keep it as a secret? The AppStore is one of the most public and direct channel that Apple holds in their hands, so it would only make sense for them to open up to customers and especially developers feedback, as they deal with the architecture of the store every other day.

The second part of the report is even more worrying.

Among the ideas being pursued, Apple is considering paid search, a Google-like model in which companies would pay to have their app shown at the top of search results based on what a customer is seeking.

Paid search? Ouch.

Yes, Google made a huge business out of this model, but I’m not confident that Apple could achieve similar results in this space. The problem with the AppStore is not just the search function. The biggest issue at play here is that the store is kind of a black hole. Developers drop their apps in and somehow, sometimes they show up on the other side, available to customers. To make a paid search model work, Apple has to increase the level of transparency of the all infrastructure. In particular Apple has to clarify the set of rules that regulate its store. Nowadays app gets rejected for all sort of strange reason. Or even worse, they get accepted, they stay in the store for a few days or even just hours and then they get removed without a good explanation1. Imagine a developer, especially a small one, gearing up to release a brand new app and deciding to pay to get to the top of the list, only to suddenly be shut down few hours later? How would this work in this complicated environment?

Of course we need to apply the big footnote here, that this report is just a rumor and Apple hasn’t of course confirmed or declined, but we know that when Apple puts together hundreds of engineers in the same room, something is definitely boiling under the hood.

I guess we may see something in this year WWDC. In the meantime I’ll keep using Google search.

  1. This Reddit case is just the latest in a long and complicated story. 

Star Wars Special: C-3PO

April 14th, 2016

Ever wandered why C-3P0 appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a bright red arm the first time we see him?

Well, now we finally get to know that! As teased by J.J. Abrams in the Secrets of the Force Awakens documentary, a special Marvel comic has just been released to tell us the story behind the red limb.

In a surprisingly moving and maybe uncharacteristic story, we travel with C-3P0 and friends, along a very dangerous road. I don’t want to say much more, to avoid spoiling any surprises, but it’s a nice take on the nature of droids and their man-made consciousness; a rare behind the scene at what’s going on inside a protocol droid’s circuitry.

You can get it right now on comiXology for £ 2.99 (Or any fine comic book store). A no-brainer insta-buy if you ask me!

Throw Back Friday

April 11th, 2016

The other day I was doing some research about the iPad, and I’ve come across something really funny. It’s a small piece that I wrote back in 2011, when we were on the verge of the release of the second generation iPad.

Why I’ll probably switch to an iPad

A big 10″ display, a great way to enjoy your media, while remaining very compact and easy to carry around. I just saw great potential in that device, a perfect mix both for productivity and relax. Anyway, I’ve resisted to the first generation. As you know, for a gadget of that kind, the first generation is always afflicted by some limitations that create a good but not perfect experience for the user, both in term of hardware and software.

That was a good call by me.

A new design, thinner and lighter, more power inside. A perfect mix for my need. I think that the iPad will really become a laptop for many users around the world. Easy to carry around to perform the majority of tasks an average user need to do. I hope also that Apple will preview it’s iOS 5, maybe with a differentiation between the iPad and the iPhone version, in order to really take the best from this tablet.

Apple should’ve asked me to create their marketing campaign for the small iPad Pro, see, already in 2011 I was onto the iPad as a laptop thing. You could almost say that I was a precursor of our own time.

The other interesting bit is how I was already hoping that Apple would’ve done something different with iOS as to really take advantage of the new big device. I guess we are not there yet1, but I won’t stop hoping for that to happen! iOS 10 will be the one, won’t it?!

Finally, there’s a bit in that article that didn’t hold up to the time very well:

If all this things will happen next week, I’ll be ready to say goodbye to the iPhone and say welcome to the iPad.

Don’t ask me why I would’ve written such a stupid statement, but I did and nothing will ever be able to erase it from the internet. I’m just happy I was very wrong!

  1. Massive white and empty space between icons on the iPad Pro, yes I’m looking at you! 

If Only I Knew What They Were Saying

April 8th, 2016

As the title says, I have no clue what this song is about and yes I know, it’s a pretty terrible song overall anyway. But the technical realisation is absolutely perfect.

Make sure to watch it on your smartphone in portrait mode. If you use an iPhone it will look even better.

RUN and RUN / lyrical school 【MV for Smartphone】 from RUNandRUN_lyrisch on Vimeo.

What’s The Time?

April 6th, 2016

If you need such a complicated graph – you’re doing it wrong

I’m a big fan of F1 and unfortunately in the last few years I had to witness my favorite motor sport digging its own grave.

I’ve been following the sport since I can remember. F1 is actually one of my earliest memory, unfortunately linked with the tragic death of Ayrton Senna in 19941. Back then, and all throughout the 90s and early 00s, F1 has always been a synonymous of innovation, adrenaline, fast and entertaining races and grand spectacle.

Now, it’s becoming a massive moving advertising billboard. A traveling circus in constant need of fresh money. Who are the losers in this transition? The viewers of course.

The latest development in this downward spiral is represented by the new qualifying format introduced in Melbourne. A new timed elimination system that was supposed to increase the competitiveness of the qualifying sessions and increase the engagement of the sport.

The results? For the past two races, the track has been empty for almost 3/4 minutes each session, reducing the track times of all cars and basically destroying any show.

During the first race in Australia, all the teams clearly had no clue of how to manage the new format. Almost all the teams got caught in the time trap half-way through the out lap, wasting tires, time and viewers patience. It was so bad that during the Q3, which was supposed to be the big shootout between the 8 fastest cars left, everyone did barely one lap and Hamilton started celebrating his pole position with 3 minutes to spare on the clock, with the team in 8th place not even bothering leaving the pit.

In Bahrain last weekend, teams seemed to have acquired a slightly better understanding of the new system, which meant that they drove even fewer laps than the week before. Getting the timing right meant that almost everyone only drove for one lap as the elimination system doesn’t give you enough time to go out, back in to refuel and change tires and back out.

The funny thing is that all the teams agreed to the new system before the start of the season, it wasn’t imposed from above. Now everyone, drivers first, are trashing the new qualifying system.

To make things worse, just before the last race, the teams got together with Jean Todd and Bernie Ecclestone to try and agree on an “improved” solution. The drafted idea that came out is now proposing to oblige all drivers to take at least two laps every Q session and to use the aggregate time to decide the standing order.

Vettel didn’t seem to like the idea, as The Guardian reported:

As Formula One’s masters lurch towards another doomed-looking meeting on Thursday in an effort to resolve the new and catastrophic qualifying format, Sebastian Vettel has described the proposed aggregate system as a “shit idea”.

He’s not the only one with a bad feeling about this. His opinions were echoed by former team mate Daniel Riccardo:

Qualifying is one lap, that one perfect lap. To have an aggregate it starts to sound more like endurance racing, or something. I wouldn’t be too keen on that, no.

To be honest I wouldn’t be that keen either on that idea. I so fondly miss the days were we had cars running around for an entire hour, slowly building up pace and speed, leading to a spectacular gran finale where everything could’ve realistically happened. Nowadays you can predict the order of the qualifying without even having the teams actually going out on track. It is pretty sad, especially from a viewer point of view. It’s note a coincidence that F1 has been steadily losing viewers (both on track and on TV), and all the changes that the FIA made in these recent years don’t seem to offer a solution that will bring back the fun.

I’m definitely not in a position to advise the FIA on how they should run their sport, but I believe that as it’s the case in many situations, even with F1 the principle should be that less is more.

Less stringent rules, more freedom to develop and bring innovation. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of automotive innovation, but since the FIA started to heavily regulate the engines and the spending limits for the cars’ development, the sport started morphing into something it never was: a fair playground. It may sound controversial, but the F1 was a better sport when it was less fair. Big teams with big budgets were free to develop and innovate as much as they wanted. Also, cars were designed by real innovators, engineers who had real ideas and they were driven by pure passion. Today cars are mostly designed on paper by thick rule books issued by the FIA, leaving little to no room for teams to bring their own unique take on what an F1 car should really look, sound and perform.

Despite all my rants, I’ll keep watching the next F1 race, and the one after, because I still love the sport and what it represents. I just wish we could turn the clocks back and be amazed once more.

  1. At the time Internet wasn’t a thing so I remember following the updates on Senna’s condition via the Televideo (Teletext) system in my TV. Yes, Televideo

The end of an era, a sad reporting from The Guardian:

Erik Bauersfeld, who turned three words from a minor acting role – “It’s a trap!” – into one of the most beloved lines of the Star Wars series, has died.

His manager, Derek Maki, says the performer died Sunday at his home in Berkeley, California, at the age of 93.

Bauersfeld stayed in radio for much of his life. He stumbled into the Star Wars series while working on a radio project at Lucasfilm.

Never forget.

8 Years of Apple

April 1st, 2016

No, the title is not a mistake.

I know that today Apple celebrates 40 years since the day it was officially incorporated by the two Steve and the one Paul, but I wasn’t even close to be born back then. So instead of reliving the entire history of the fruity company, I thought it might have been fun to relive my personal history with the Cupertino brand.

The Trojan Horse

It all started with the second generation iPod Touch, not immediately after the release, but almost a year later, during my first year of Erasmus in Ireland. One of my friend was the first one I knew with an iPhone 3G. At the time I was already following everything that was happening in the Apple ecosystem, but very much as a spectator only. I still remember the keynote of the original iPhone and I was completely blew away by it. At the time I was rocking one of those HP Windows Phone that had to be used with a stylus because the keyboard and every other icons were ridiculously tiny. The iPhone was clearly the revolution.

The original iPhone never actually made in Italy (at least not in an easy way), so I could only dream about it. Its successor, the iPhone 3G was the first model that became ubiquitous in Europe1, and became for me a sort of obsession. At the time I wasn’t in a position to afford it, so I went for the second best thing I could buy: the iPod Touch.

Since the moment I took it out of the box I was completely sold. I had opened the doors to the Apple Trojan horse and I knew there wasn’t going to be an easy way back. That iPod also served for me as the first introduction to the world of jailbreaking and all the wonders and new functions you were able to add to a limited device. I clearly remember the pain related to having to do everything through my HP laptop (more on that later), but I soldiered on, because the reward meant I got to play with an awesome portable device.

The more I kept using the iPod Touch, the more I kept fantasising about owing an iPhone. Still, I wasn’t in a position to afford one.

Going full circle

The Christmas of that year my awesome parents made me a great gift, in the form of my first MacBook. It was the unibody white plastic MacBook. What a joyful machine. Light years ahead of my two years old HP juggernaut. With that machine, I was for the first time fully invested in the Apple ecosystem and that’s when you realise how things work much better when they are under the same roof. Or in this case, they both have the same apple on the back.

It’s now summer 2009 and the iPhone 3GS just went on the market and the iPhone 3G, got a price reduction. At the time I was living in Brussels and with my first pay check I sized the opportunity: I sold my iPod Touch and I bought myself an iPhone 3G, 8GB(!). It was the middle of the summer but for me it was like Christmas again. I vividly remember the day the phone arrived because it had been brought to me by a friend that came to visit from Italy. A quick hug to greet him and then it was all business putting on charge my new toy.

Never looking back

After the iPhone 3G, I became kind of obsessed with the iPhone. Because I was already a year late to the cycle, I skipped the iPhone 3GS and went straight to the iPhone 4. This was also my first all-night queue at an Apple Store. At that time we still didn’t have an Apple Store in my town Turin, so we two other friends we went on a trip to the closest store in Milan2. That night was great. I met lots of other Apple fans and we had so much fun waiting in queue, playing board games, drinking beer and just discussing on all the different reasons that brought us there. The common denominator was definitely the passion toward the company, but also the pure love for an amazing technology that still to this day doesn’t fail to impress.

The iPhone 4 was particularly exciting for me, because it was the first iPhone that I bought in time and so I was fully synced with the Apple software schedule. One thing that I remember of the iPhone 3G is that it became very quickly much slower with the new iOS releases, so much so that jailbreaking was at the time the only way to actually use the device.

The iPhone 4 never became my favourite design-wise. The materials were great, but it always felt very sharp in the hand and never was a very comfortable device for me.

The year after I decided I wanted the iPhone 4S on Day 1. Remember that Italy is never included in the first release wave, so the iPhone 4 was a Day 1, but only for the second way. This time the, I went with a friend to the Apple Store in Nice, France, which is a country always included in Apple first wave. There, I finally got my Day 1-1! Again, a very very enjoyable time, excluded for the moment a random group of forty Russians invaded the queue, disrupting the order we kept all night. In the end we all got our brand new shiny iPhones, so it was still ok.

All The Screens

While keeping myself busy with the iPhone business I obviously kept my eyes open in regards of all the other product lines. In particular just around this time my White MacBook was really struggling to keep up and that’s what prompt me to switch to a MacBook Pro, specifically the first generation with a Retina Display. This thing looked and still looks amazing. Not being able to see the pixels on the screen, made the display stand out from a millions miles away. It’s a joy operating such device and still today it remains a beautiful machine.

Also of course, an iPad made its way into my life. The first one was the iPad 2, which quickly was replaced by the first iPad Mini as at the time it didn’t make sense to me why you would want to have such a big device3. The iPad initially for me was more like an impulse purchase rather than a real necessity. I ended up using it for some web browsing, occasional gaming and not much else. Also, the iPad was still very much a new concept and the software (both the iOS and the third-party apps) was still in its infancy and very much just a bigger iPhone.

One More Row

The year after was the year of the iPhone 5, the first model with a bigger, actually just taller, screen; giving us one more row of icons on the Home Screen. It was September 2012 and in the meant rim I had moved to the UK, a country that again is always included in the first wave of release by Apple. This time no queueing outside, just a painful early morning online pre-order that guaranteed the delivery on Day 1. Less fun and rewarding, but so much more comfortable. This iPhone is also the only one that lasted for two years, since I’ve skipped the iPhone 5S. Touch ID alone didn’t seem enough of a reason to switch and I decided to wait and see what a completely new design was going to bring to the table.

That was also the period when, after the iPad Mini, I came back to the bigger brother as the first iPad Air was first introduced. It was more powerful and it had that beautiful Retina Display that I was missing so much on my Mini. That’s the iPad that stayed with me for the longest time, until last November.

We are now jumping to the end of 2014 when the iPhone 6/6+ made their first appearance. The design of the device was absolutely elegant and a decidedly step forward compared to any previous model. It was an insta-buy and despite the initial indecision, I ultimately went for the little brother and settled for the 6. Because again, why would you want such a big device in your pocket?4

The Most Personal Device

After the iPhone 6, the next big thing that Apple presented us with was the Apple Watch. Touted as the most personal device ever created by Apple, they released three different configurations of the device: same internals, but different cases, from Aluminium to Gold, passing through Steel.

By now you should know what happened. I bought myself an Apple Watch Sport.

This time it wasn’t a Day 1 purchase because I was very much on the fence regarding this device. I’ve always worn and loved mechanical watches. They are beautiful pieces of engineering and a precious object that can pass through generations within a family. I bought anyway. I had mixed feelings toward it since the first day and after a few months of daily usage it went back into a drawer and now it’s waiting in a box ready to be shipped to my buyer. I’m not say the Apple Watch is a bad device, I think the entire category still hasn’t found an appealing formula to actually make a smart watch and interesting proposition.

Go Big Or Go Home

And now we are finally getting to today, or better late last year, the year when I realised I had got it wrong since the very beginning. 2015 quickly became the year of bigger is better.

When the iPhone 6S was introduced, I took it as an excuse to update to the bigger 6S+. Phone-wise is the best decision I’ve ever made. The big screen is stunning and it allows me to do so much more than ever before. So much so that sometimes I find myself preferring it over any other device I own.

And then of course it was the year of the iPad Pro. Where should I start? To me the iPad Pro is the most transformative and disruptive device release by Apple in recent years. This truly is the future of computing, if not for the masses, definitely for me. Since I got it, I barely use my MacBook. And why would I do that? The Pro does everything the MacBook does, but it does it much better, faster and in a much more polished way. The iPad Pro also very much transformed the way I work in the office. It became the only device I take in meetings, an indispensable device to sketch, design flow charts and handle emails. I could use my iPad Pro for about the 80% of all my regular tasks and day after day I’m actively trying to push that percentage as high as I can.

What’s Next?

That’s always a good question to ask yourself. It has only been 8 years for me in the Apple world but they’ve certainly be very productive and packed years. I’ve loved every single device I’ve owned and I was always amazed by the new ones coming in. Every year I think to myself that there’s no way they can actually do better. And of course every year they do, leaving me stunned like a child in front of his first bicycle.

  1. To this day, the design of the iPhone 3G/3GS is by far my all-time favourite. 
  2. Turin and Milan are very close to each other, but at the time it still seemed like a crazy adventure. 
  3. Oh boy. 
  4. Oh boy x 2. 


March 29th, 2016

Last night we had the latest in a series on cross-over episodes in the CW universe of super heroes. This time it was The Flash invading the Earth protected by Supergirl (hence the amazing title of this post). I think it’s just fair to say that this has been the best super hero event in the DC universe in quite a long time.

And I’m not the only one that thinks that.

I especially like the title of IGN’s article about the episode: The Flash/Supergirl Crossover Is The Perfect Antitode To Batman V Superman. I’m saying this because that’s exactly how I felt after watching the TV show.

During the weekend I went to the cinema in order to watch what was supposed to be the biggest super hero movie of the year. Turns out they should’ve called it Boredom V Sleepiness, a title that would be much more representative, albeit a bit of a spoiler 😉

Anyway, back to Supergirl/Flash.

In these action-packed 40-something minutes, we get to see two completely stranger immediately get to know each other, bonding on what is making them special, being heroes. The Flash brings his two-season wisdom and teaches Supergirl how being part of a team is the best thing you can hope for in this or any other Earth. On the other hand Supergirl brings her positive attitude and joy and making look everything so simple when it’s really super hard and difficult.

They immediately complement each other, and it’s clear how the two actors clearly had so much fun while filming this episode. The interaction and the chemistry between the two characters was immediately palpable, since the first scene they come in contact. Much more than The Flash and The Arrow. These two are very much the opposite and they just barely keep each other in balance.

The Lady of Steel and the Red Scarlet are very much amplifying each other’s auras on screen, even though they are not really that great at fighting crime together. But that wasn’t the point of this epiosode in the first place.

This wasn’t at all about fighting crime together. This was all about the two heroes needing a way to recharging the positive battery, trying to restore the faith in humanity and the good that always was the distinguishing factor for them. Previous to this episode, both The Flash and Supergirl had to go through some really tough times and I believe this encounter was needed to turn the tide around.

I’m liking the approach that The CW is taking toward the DC Universe, and I really believe that Warner Bros. could learn1 a thing or two for their upcoming movies in the Expanded Universe.

  1. They probably won’t as they already announced that they’ll be using a different actor to portray The Flash on the big screen.