November 05, 2013
This is one of those silly things, which we first brush off as not important when we cannot do something, and brag about it when we finally do. So, here’s one of mine: Some weeks before we paid a visit to China late last year, we brought home a few pairs of chopsticks — thinking we’d need this on our trip, so we could practice picking things up. After many fumbles and laughs around our dining table, this skill eventually stopped eluding us. Of course, nobody still does it better than my older daughter, who makes it look effortless. And indeed, throughout the trip, she was the only one who I don’t remember asking for a pair of English cutlery. We returned, and our chopsticks went back in to the kitchen cabinet, never to be seen again.
So, a year later when wife and kids suggested we go to Din Tai Fung, I wasn’t sure if I even remembered our little exercise from a year ago. For lunch this afternoon, we asked for cutlery as usual, while ordering crab dumplings. And when dumplings were brought in their casks, I picked them up with my chopsticks — without realizing what I had just done. Yes, it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally say that my humble chopsticks skills are here to stay. This for me a year after forty. I suppose, it’s never too late.
October 19, 2013
A moderate version of the maximum city, overcrowded with shanty skyscrapers, endless construction sites and choking traffic, this is a city trying hard to hang-on to its colonial history, as if it were slipping away. But for its few attractions that still manage to pull in crowds from around the region, the paint has been fading since 1997. We didn’t realize this, of course, until recently when we paid a visit. Our trip to China last year, in comparison, would put Hong Kong to utter shame.
The few touristy places revolve either around its harbour, or its view from the top. The other notable places for those with children in tow are Disneyland and Ocean Park, which aren’t too bad — we visited only the latter, with no appetite for the former. Generally, this trip felt more like a grind than a holiday. No, we don’t intend to visit again. It’s one of those where the money wasn’t spent wisely.
October 13, 2013
I am struggling with iOS 7 (version 7.0.2 as of this writing) — Apple’s lastest mobile operating system. These last three weeks of use have been absolutely frustrating, to put it mildly. Here are some of the many things I am grappling with:
- Notes app: When paired with a bluetooth keyboard, iOS 7 native Notes app exhibits lag and loss of control over typing with uncontrollable letter repeats, and backspace deletes. This happens repeatedly when I am using my iPad. (I use the native Notes app because it syncs with Exchange, and my writings are accessible from Outlook when I login to my work PC in a corporate environment.)
- Calendar app: My most loved and used app in its former self in iOS 6 has morphed in to cringe-worthy unusable stack of awful design. The month view in iOS 6 thoughfully placed the day’s appointments just below the calendar map. This is now gone, and all I see is motion-sickness-inducing animation without displaying useful information.
- App crashes: Many of my apps are constantly crashing, or become unscrollable. It happens to Reeder 2. It happens to Mail, and Settings.
- Usability issues: The new interface is brutal on my eyes. The text is barely readable. The control center and notification center’s translucency are driving me mad with discoloration clouding the controls. Together with garish and light colors, the icon lines in apps inconsistent, sloppy and confusing, and are so thin that I can barely see them. They do not grow thicker when the bold option is turned on.
- Battery: My phone appears to be draining more battery than before that I have now begun carrying a battery pack — for recharging when I am in meetings without access to a power outlet.
It’s the first time I have tried to roll back my iPhone and my iPad a number of times in the past two weeks — without luck. The signature revocation on previous firmware is apparently preventing rollback to the older and more usable version, and I am stuck with an operating system I can barely use, let alone love. I have written to Apple numerous times in the last three weeks, and have requested them to allow me to roll back. They have all been met with silence and later a polite decline.
Given my very lean app count, the buggy system combined with extremely poor UI is making my experience a lot worse than the feature iOS 7 adds. I’d give it all up for an opportunity to roll back to the best working iOS 6. I sincerely hope Apple reconsiders this, at least until at least iOS 7 becomes stable and usable.
Update: Seeing Mac OS X’s improvements over time that actually helped performance when upgraded to newer version in recent history, prior to Lion, I assumed the upgrade would be good for my iPhone 4S. Apple proved me wrong, and I am now an unwilling guinea pig in an unfinished experiment called iOS7. To save my eyes from its horror and its pathetic performance, I went out and bought a 5th gen iPod Touch running 6.1.3 — just before it ran out of stock. I hope never to update it.
My new resolution w.r.t Apple’s update is to stay with the update the device shipped with, no matter what, and take the dip only if the reports — over time — are overwhelmingly positive from ordinary people, but not from the Apple lip-service folk.
Update (Oct 24): Given that I am stuck with iOS 7 on my iPad, I updated it to 7.0.3, and now my most useful app, Calca, is completely unusable because it crashes at launch. Oh hell.
Update (Nov 2): Sanity returns as Calca is updated, and breathes new life into my iOS devices. It still crashes when I try to email myself my calculations, but I am not crippled by this bug as copy works. Better than nothing.
Update (Nov 5): Professor Lessig On the pathological way Apple deals with its customers:
So this has been a week from Apple hell. Apple did a major upgrade of its suite of software — from the operating system through applications. Stupidly (really, inexcusably stupid), I upgraded immediately. Every Apple-related product I use has been crippled in important ways.
This is how I feel about myself for having rushed to upgrade, with no way to revert to the previous version. While Apple has responded with a timeline of features to iWork (perhaps responding to Prof. Lessig, and he has thanked back in kind), it hasn’t said a thing about iOS 7 or respecting user’s preference to roll back after a brief experience with iOS 7, which is just sad.
Update (Nov 6): Speaking with Jeff Veen in an interview on GigaOm’s RoadMap, Erik Spiekermann talks about iOS 7’s poor choice of typography:
User interface designers must forget their vanity…don’t forget you’re running a service. You are supposed to design something for other people, not yourself or your mother.. You have to be honest. If you’re showing the world what a great designer you are, it will be illegible or annoying.
Update (Nov 7): Seeing me fret about the state of Apple’s OS I am struggling with, my wife said something interesting today:
It’s just a tool, stop being obsessive. Find something worth your time and adoration instead.
I was never obsessed with Windows when I used it at home until 2007. It was just a means to do things that I wanted to get done using an OS. In contrast, Apple products consistently delighted me in ways that I eventually developed some.
If I were a company, I would want passionate users, for instance; and this is because people begin to love the things they use. And who knows, may be Steve Jobs’s key role was to keep excessive designer vanities in check so it would be human, and usable first and foremost to its users.