Breaking Rules

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, visited Apple’s headquarters in early 2015 to meet with Timothy D. Cook, who runs the iPhone maker. It was a session that Mr. Kalanick was dreading.

For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple’s engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple’s privacy guidelines.

But Apple was on to the deception, and when Mr. Kalanick arrived at the midafternoon meeting sporting his favorite pair of bright red sneakers and hot-pink socks, Mr. Cook was prepared. “So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules,” Mr. Cook said in his calm, Southern tone. Stop the trickery, Mr. Cook then demanded, or Uber’s app would be kicked out of Apple’s App Store.

For Mr. Kalanick, the moment was fraught with tension. If Uber’s app was yanked from the App Store, it would lose access to millions of iPhone customers — essentially destroying the ride-hailing company’s business. So Mr. Kalanick acceded.

New York Times: Uber's C.E.O. Plays With Fire

I expect nothing less than sociopathy from Kalanick and Uber. This also confirms that there are different rules for different apps on Apple’s App Store. If you’re big enough, you can clearly violate the rules and get away with a reprimand from Tim Cook.

Mac Pro 7,1

I’m glad Apple announced that they will be releasing both a new professional desktop and an external display. Prompted by Michael Tsai, Justin Williams, and Marco Arment and my own experience with Apple’s current (meaning wildly outdated) pro desktop, a few thoughts on future pro hardware. While my current cylindrical Mac Pro works reasonably well, redrawing to the 5K display I’m using (a now-discontinued Dell UP2715K) is janky when switching spaces or using Exposé. The display output is also sometimes horribly distorted after waking from sleep, requiring the monitor’s power cord to be detached and reattached. Not exactly “It just works”. At least it doesn’t turn off near a WiFi router. This is the third panel I received from Dell. The first one they shipped me had a horizontal line of dead pixels, then decided to render the two sides of the screen with different color saturation. The second display they shipped me had both a few dead pixels and a small scratch. To Dell’s credit, their customer service was pretty good. That said, I have never had this kind of problem with brand new display quality from Apple.

Mac Pro

My wishes for the new Mac Pro are basically the same as Justin’s: Make it fast, include more memory in the baseline configuration, and let us max out a custom build with the most powerful GPU available. nVidia has released beta Mac drivers for their Pascal-based models, which means that at least some of the work to support them on the Mac is already done. Thunderbolt 3 (or 4) and USB-C are nice, maybe all with DisplayPort 1.4 support for driving 8K/60Hz panels.

8K Cinema Display

I hope Apple’s new stand-alone display is at least 8K resolution for all those who want to work on photos and video at as close to full size as possible while still having screen real estate for UI. 8K resolution would also provide differentiation with the 5K iMac. If Dell can produce an 8K panel with 98% of the DCI-P3 color space, surely Apple can offer something competitive. Ideally, it would be taller. If you used a 30″ Cinema Display (2560×1600), then moved to one with the more common 2560×1440 points (the UP2715K is double that in pixels), you miss the additional 160 points of height.

An Incremental Sketch Improvement

When resizing objects in Sketch, I’d like to see the increment (or decrement) value along with the dimensions.

Sketch-Resize_increment_display

  1. The change value is always relative to the dimensions before the drag began, so if you increased the width of the example above by 10, then decreased that by 5 without releasing the drag handle, the counter would read +5.
  2. If they prove distracting, maybe a “Show dimension change counts” checkbox in the Layers section of Preferences.
  3. Ideally, these would display when resizing using the keyboard as well.
  4. Throw typography nerds a bone by using a proper multiplication symbol rather than an x for the width/height separator. I assume you can add it from the Characters palette to the appropriate place in Xcode.

I’m really happy with how the new (nestable!) symbols are shaping up in the Sketch 3.7 betas — great work by the team at Bohemian Coding.

Hype Pro Released

If you want to design UI transitions and responsive layouts without writing the code yourself, Hype Pro is a great option.

To work out the details for specific UI transitions, I frequently just copy and paste design elements from my Sketch document into Hype and go from there. Keep in mind that it is generally easier to manipulate text and boxes if they are created in Hype itself.

For more involved UI simulations, the addition of symbols (particularly those that persist across scenes) makes such a thing much easier to manage than in older versions of Hype.

Bling Edition

I wonder if Tim Cook's embarrassment is a tell; a sign that Cook didn't want to make a gold watch. That the Apple Watch Edition is a vanity project for Jony Ive, a luxury watch aficionado who rides in a Bentley to work every day. A $10,000 watch (or even $17,000, the highest priced model) is not Apple. While the company is often criticized for selling products at prices higher than competitors, Apple has always backed these prices up with higher quality and better design. Apple has never been a company of bling, and the Apple Watch Edition is bling, nothing more.

Thoughts on the Apple Watch Edition | Kirkville

Given the many times he has talked about form following naturally from function, I thought Ive had more taste than to design an ostentatious display of wealth. Then again, in the recent New Yorker profile of Ive, his “friend and former London colleague” Clive Grinyer did say that Ive has “always been a bit bling.”

The Leaking Balloon

The Mac App Store was released in January 2011 and it marked the beginning of a great new distribution channel. Even though it lacked some bells and whistles, the developer community was hopeful the problems would be addressed in due course. Unfortunately, it has been years and there’s no evidence that the core issues would be addressed in the future, at all.

Milen Dzhumerov’s Mac App Store: The Subtle Exodus

I bought Affinity Designer recently because I was able to use the beta releases, which proved the app to be stable, performant, and very functional. I don’t buy Mac apps without being able to try them.

Visual and Interaction Design on the Mac

It’s a hopeful time for design tools on the Mac.

  1. Adobe having killed Fireworks, I’ve moved over to Boheman Coding’s Sketch. The addition of symbols in v3 made it practical to use for larger projects. I still miss shared layers from Fireworks, but not the crashes.
  2. Affinity Designer has great performance, a customizable UI, and a good balance of vector and bitmap tools. It’s not geared toward mocking up numerous screen views, but it seems like a good option for individual illustrations and icons.
  3. Flying Meat’s Acorn is a great alternative to Photoshop if you need bitmap editing capabilities.
  4. Quasado’s Gravit provides a good deal of Fireworks’ functionality in an open source, web technologies-based package. It’s still very much a work in progress (no Boolean ops on vectors, no vector export, bugs, etc.), but it already surpasses Fireworks in some ways. The multiple master pages would have been great in Fireworks.
  5. Not having been released, I have not used it, but there is good reason to believe that Bjango’s Skala will be a quality visual design app.
  6. Relative Wave’s Form looks like a way to build iOS prototypes without all the complexity of Quartz Composer.
  7. Along similar lines, there is Facebook’s Origami.
  8. Framer Studio is another good option for mobile prototyping. There are many examples if you’re new to writing JavaScript.
  9. Tumult’s Hype is a good way to build interactive prototypes without coding. I’ve built fairly extensive prototypes using the combination of Sketch and Hype. Unlike Form and Origami, Hype’s output can run on anything with a decent browser.

Most designers for screens could be well served by some combination of the above. My workflow these days is mostly doing graphics and some layout in Sketch, then prototyping in the browser using jQuery with Velocity.js or Snap.svg for animation.