Tag Archives: Apple

My iOS app is free until the end of June 2016

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Screenshot from my free iOS app

I quietly released a simple iOS app back in March 2016. It’s free to download and works on iPhone and iPads running iOS 7.0 or later.

It’s called VCE Study Tools (Chemistry) and it’s the fastest way to browse this website on a mobile device.

Get it from the App Store here.

I’m removing it from the App Store at the end of June 2016 so I can release something a little better later on. If you want the app, go ahead and download it before it’s gone!

James Kennedy's iOS app called VCE Study Tools (Chemistry) is available on the App Store

Subscribe to my Apple News Channel

Apple News is available on iOS 9 and above
Subscribe to this website via Apple News (requires iOS 9 and above)

I was recently accepted as a contributor to Apple News. This means that readers can now access this website’s content via the Apple News app from any iOS device. The latest posts will appear directly in readers’ Apple News feeds. This is quicker and much more convenient than using the mobile version of this website.

I’ve been using Apple News for a while now, and I love having quick access to important news from various sources. You can customise which news sources you want to appear in your news feed: there are around 2000 news sources to choose from, and this website has now been added to the mix.

Click here to check out my Apple News channel.

James Kennedy, Monash Apple News Channel
My Apple News channel as of March 2016. Click to subscribe.

Holmes or Tufte? Mineral Water Composition chart

I’ve just watched some lectures on the two major schools of design: Tufte and Holmes.

This was one of them (Vimeo.com)

They’re radically different. Tufte advocates simple data visualisations with a maximum data-to-ink ratio. Holmes likes to add visual elements, pictures and illustrations onto charts, which Tufte calls “chartjunk”. You’ll have noticed the striking difference between these two competing schools when you upgraded your iPhone from the Holmes-inspired, skeuomorphic iOS 6 to the Tufte-inspired, clear and minimalist iOS 7.

iOS and iOS 7 comparison
LEFT: Holmes-style design (iOS 6). RIGHT: Tufte-style design (iOS 7)

Clearly, the Tufte-inspired version on the right looks much better.

Here is a simple introduction to minimalist Tufte design:

Data-to-ink ratio

I’m on the side of Tufte here. I like complicated data visualised in a simple-looking graphic. Looking back at the graphics I made last summer, I decided to update the Mineral Water Composition chart I made last year according to Tufte’s design philosophy.

Here’s the new, Tufte-inspired version:

Water water everywhere v3
Tufte school of design. Click to enlarge (JPEG)

And here’s the old Holmes-inspired version I made a year ago:

Mineral Water Composition by Brand
Holmes school of design. Click to enlarge (JPEG).

Which design do you prefer…? Holmes or Tufte?

Book: Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces

Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces
My edition says, “A guide to letterforms” along the bottom, which is an accurate description, rather than “A design handbook”, an erroneous description, which is written along the bottom of this edition.

This is what I was looking for when I picked Color Management.
130 pages, ★★★★

Steve Jobs studied calligraphy, which inspired the beautifully-designed fonts on the Lisa computer. In fact, his fascination with finessing fine details was manifested in all the Apple products he helped to design—including the famous “we spent six weeks deciding how round the corners should be [on the Apple IIe]” and “we spent months finding the right friction coefficient [for the MacBook Pro trackpad]”. I admire his perfectionist streak, and wanted to learn something about lettering myself.

Color Management focussed solely on color, layout and design—and was badly written. Lettering & Type, however, gets the balance of text and examples just right: on each double-spread, one page is filled with prose, while each opposing page is dedicated to graphic examples. (I even suggested this balance in my review of Color Management).

I learned that typeface design is a very fine art. Within the confines of dozens of rules of typeface aesthetics, we have to craft the individual letters, ensuring unity of stroke width and spacing throughout the typeset. We then have to adjust the kerning (spacing) of character each combination and design ligatures (conjoined letters like ӕ, fi and ij) when necessary. We have to examine the font in paragraph form, and ensure there’s an average ‘colour’ throughout the text, making final adjustments as necessary. For the most professional effects, we have to re-jiggle all the parameters in the first step whenever we make the font larger or smaller (you can see this by examining the fonts in Newsweek magazine very closely). Many large fonts look awful small, and vice versa.

Design buffs should read this, as should anyone who appreciates, or aspires to appreciate, the sheer beauty in life’s tiny, tiny details. ★★★★

The future of iTunes U

I flirt on the subway. When I’m not flirting, I’m listening to iTunes U lectures, particularly the Introduction to Psychology course from MIT.

The iTunes U iPad app is an education revolution. 500,000 lectures from top universities are now available anywhere, any time, complete with video, audio, books, articles and a global notepad so people can compare notes. Unlike university, you can pause, mix, and choose your courses. There’s more quality teacher time and less idiotic student time. And best of all, the lectures are FREE. Nobody needs to go to university any more.

While contemplating where this movement might be headed, I got very excited. Here’s my vision for iTunes U:

  • Apple TAs mark your essays. I want to be able to submit written assignments and pay to have them graded by approved teaching assistants (TAs). The Apple TAs would be approved by the course organisers at the university, not by Apple; as their background knowledge needs to be specific to the course in question. Each Apple TA will have a profile page (like the pages in the App Store) with sample essay comments, star-ratings and feedback from previous students.
  • Apple TAs earn money. Apple gets 30%, while TAs get 70% of the essay fee. There would be rules (such as 72-hour turnaround; comment guidelines, and recommended prices). I would love to earn money as an Apple TA. This is a logical extension of how millions of developers can now make money via the App Store and the iBooks Store.
  • Apple issues diplomas. These could one day be worth credit in a brick-and-mortar university.
Nobody needs to go to university any more. Long live iTunes U.

Book: Steve Jobs

I am Steve Jobs!”
598 pages, ★★★★★

Everyone’s reading this in Beijing. And suddenly, everyone thinks they’re [the next] Steve Jobs. Of course, I was no exception.

We’re alike. Steve Jobs found enlightenment in India, whereas I found it in China. Neither of us work for the money, which makes us both very difficult people to manage. While Steve was extremely passionate about projects he believed would succeed (the iMac, the iPod), he was also quick to throw tantrums of “this is shit” and destroy other people’s plans (the Newton, the first cancer diagnosis). I do this too.

Steve Jobs admitted he never worked for the money, and I could relate to that. He proved this by working for no salary as the “iCEO” of Apple from 1997. This book actually inspired me to walk away from a well-paying job I didn’t enjoy, which freed up 3 more days of my week to do things that I do enjoy (such as reading books).

Steve Jobs later postulated that the year he spent running around making billion-dollar deals for other people (Pixar) made him stressed and weak, which allowed his cancer to grow. I could relate to that, too: in the last 2 years, I’ve learned that one should only ever work for oneself, i.e. in projects that one truly believes in. Working for anyone else makes you feel sick at worst, and unsatisfied at best.

I read faster in the middle (where Jobs was ousted from Apple) because the ever-increasing sums of money didn’t interest me. Fortunately, it’s the only part of the book which focusses on his financial negotiations (“$”, “billion” and “CEO” were keywords in these chapters). I slowed down significantly towards the end because I didn’t want him to die. Useful spoiler: he doesn’t die in the book.

Al Gore was missing from this book. Having read The Assault on Reason and this TIME feature article (long ago), I expected to see Al Gore more in this book than the 2-3 times that he contributed to Apple meetings. I’ve read elsewhere that Jobs and Gore were good friends outside the boardroom. They even had similar N-shaped careers (being ousted from Apple; the 2000 election respectively). The fact that Gore has massive political and economic interests at stake (Apple, Current, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and many green start-ups) means he probably doesn’t want certain things exposed. To learn more about Steve Jobs, I look forward to reading Al Gore’s next, and hopefully more revealing, biography. ★★★★★