Tom Insam

Reversed Scrolling

After having used it for a few months, I'm gradually begining to think that the reversed scroll direction in MacOS is a bad thing. Or at least, an annoying thing.

Partially, this is because my cursor keys are now backwards - pushing down on my cursor key scrolls a web page in the opposite direction that dragging 2 fingers down on the trackpad does. Surely the same argument that applies to reversing the trackpad should have been applied to the cursor keys? Except that, of course, if there's an actual cursor on the screen, pressing down-cursor should move the cursor down the page, potentially scrolling the page up. It would be absurd to have the cursor keys reverse meaning just because there's a focussed text box on the page.

But mostly I think it's wrong because I'm having to use Windows for a few things recently and I'm hating the overhead of having to deal with both scrolling directions. Every time I try to scroll it feels like I go the wrong way. I find it hard to believe that Windows is ever going to change its default scroll direction, so thanks to Apple's change I'm forced to choose between two failure cases - either I use the Apple default and get confused every time I use Windows, or I use old-style scrolling and get confused every time I try to use someone else's computer, as well as being held hostage to Apple ever removing the option in a future version of the OS.

I was initially in the "you'll get used to it" camp. I did get used to it. I like using system defaults wherever possible, and adopting new conventions. I even prefer the new scrolling direction. And I don't mind differences that I don't have to deal with very frequently - for instance, the close window button under Windows is in a different corner and I can happily not care about that. But I scroll things all the time.


So there's a petition. Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents. It's got a lot of signatures on it.

Let's agree that Patent Trolls are Bad. Likewise, let's agree that the Mutually-Assured-Destruction style standoff at the high end of the company scale is more pointless than useful. And let's accept the fact that if you're a tiny company, you pretty much have to just pay people who attack you with patents, irrespective of if you think they have an actual case.

But to cease issuing software patents? All that would really accomplish is that all the people who currently have software patents would now have a total stranglehold over all new entrants, who would be unable to defend themselves using their own patents.

Of course, the petition doesn't actually propose that. If you read all the way to the end of the last paragraph, it says "and to void all previously issued software patents".

There are more than 200,000 outstanding software patents, according to various unattributed sources on the internet. This economist article points out that both the Nortel and the Motorola deals, on a price-per-patent basis, valued those patents at $510,204.08 each. So, with lots of handwaving, we can argue that this petition is asking the US government to unilaterally destroy $100bn worth of corporate-held property.

That'll be popular.

It absolutely does make it "gamey," which is actually kind of
brilliant. It plays very well to some of the game's core conceits
regarding augmentation in that, if you "upgrade" yourself in this way,
you're no longer connecting with other human beings; you're looking at
readouts and emitting pheromones like some sort of malicious robot air
freshener. The readouts distract you and you may even become dependent
on them, losing all interest in actually engaging with the NPCs you're
verbally sparring with and what motivates them. The augmentation
tricks you into behaving as a machine rather than as a human being. I
watched my roommate fall into exactly this on his first playthrough,
while I didn't take it (I didn't "fail" any conversations, and only
came across one instance where it was clear the aug would've opened up
unavailable avenues of discussion), and it even came back to bite him
(in a way that was, for me as an observer, highly satisfying).

In this respect, the CASIE aug is a surprisingly subversive piece
of game design, and arguably the most convincing piece of in-game
evidence that Humanity Front might be right about a few things.


Things about Google+

Some thoughts about Google+.

First the simple one. I understand / appreciate Twitter's simplicity a lot more now. It only does one thing. You don't need to keep track of notifications and posts and tags and checkins and comments. You just read the timeline till you get bored or catch up.

Secondly, on an Android phone, with the Plus app installed, I'm now able to share my photos and comments, and links, you name it, into Plus from the system-wide Share menu, using any application on the system that supported sharing. On my iPhone, I need to wait for the G+ API to be released, then for all of the applications I use to individually invent and implement their own seperate ways of adding a "share to Google+" button, then for Apple to approve new releases of all their software, then I have to upgrade them all on my phone.

One of the reasons that Apple makes products with such nice experiences is because they control the stack from the hardware level right up to the applications on the phone. Everything works together. But that's where Apple's work stops - all the applications are (intentionally) silos that don't / can't talk to each other. The assumption is that once you have an application to do a thing, you're finished. To do a different thing, use a different application.

Google's management / control doesn't reach down as far as the hardware, or even the OS layer (as the operators / manufacturers can do a lot of things to the platform in the name of differentiation), so Android suffers from a framgmentation problem at those levels. But at the network ecosystem level, they're stronger than Apple - all of their internet products play together reasonably well. It's not great, but it's decent. Google+ can recommend contacts from my address book, or because I've sent them mail in the past. It can use the profile I already had. I can use photos that are already in Picassa in my posts without me having to faff (if I used picassa..).

Android has better Share support because Android is a platform that understands the Internet, whereas iOS stops at the Application layer. If you care about having nice applications, iOS is better, because everything about it is aimed at having nice applications. But in the next version of iOS, Apple might manage to ship system-wide support for Twitter, just as everyone I know stops caring.


(Related - when I get a notification on iOS that I have a new @reply tweet, or a new message on some service, it's merely a notification. I have to launch the app to see what it is. If I'm underground when I see the notification, then I'm just stuffed. On Android, I'll have the notification because the app already has the data. When I lived in Berlin, this didn't matter, because you can get decent data everywhere, even on the u-bahn. In London, data is a lot spottier, and it's changing the importance I put on offline support and background-fetching of data.)

Launchbar 5.1

Adds support for indexing Google Chrome bookmarks and history

-- Launchbar 5.1 release notes

Launchbar is the piece of software on my machine that I notice the least and
use the most. I cannot use my computer without it, and get confused on other
poeple's macs when I can't run applications any more. Until today, I had
exactly one problem with it.

Brick Walls

I have absolutely ZERO problem with people talking about how nice it would be if Federated Social Networks existed, I just think they're so unlikely to work that we should invest our energy in other areas! More productive areas! In this case, I'm afraid, i think you're just running at a brick wall while declaring that it would CLEARLY BE BETTER IF THE BRICK WALL WASN'T THERE. Well duh! Of course it would be better if the brick wall wasn't there. No one's disputing that! But it is there! It really is!

-- Tom Coates

Ok, I'm a sucker for lines like that. But read all of it anyway.

Paul Mison wrote a nice tool:

For a long time, I’ve maintained a set called Your Favourites on Flickr, which contains those photos that lots of people have marked as, well, a favourite.


Of course, it would be nice if this had a web interface, and if it offered to let you choose a set to use or to create a new one, and so on, but I already had the set, and like I said, I’m lazy. Feel free to fork it and make it do any of that stuff.


As usual, the code for this lives in github as favset - patches are welcome. The obvious thing it needs is some sort of scheduling ability - I'd like my set to be updated every couple of days, so it's always current. I'll get round to that eventually, I'm sure.