App Store Thing

These days it’s popular to rag on Apple’s iTunes appstore. Turn to any techtard / new media douchebag commentary site, and you’ll find whining about market abuses, slow app approval blah blah blah.

Well for all the ‘tardary developers claim about the appstore, here’s a story about why the appstore can be a great thing for consumers…

As a recent iPhone buyer, I wanted a file transfer solution to provide the iPod as hard disc functionality that the classic iPods sported. So, I did a bit of research and the reviews seemed to indicate that Veiosoft’s DataCase was the best solution. I bought DataCase, and attempted to use it to back up files from my Mac.

You’ll notice the word “attempted”, yeah, not “succeeded”. Put simply, my experience of DataCase was that it probably shouldn’t be on sale. Some files I attempted to transfer over would just vanish when they arrived on the phone, and then magically cure themselves a while later. None of the files transferred over were viewable on the phone – tapping them would produce a grey screen, though if you rotated the phone’s orientation, the file would appear while it rotated, and then go back to the grey screen. The only way to view it was to go back to the file list, then tap the file a second time. The crowning fail of the app was that while it claims to support rotation, and certainly does for the file browser, when viewing movie files it has a hard-coded orientation. That’s ok if you’re right handed, and you rotate your phone counter-clockwise to put it into landscape orientation. I’m lefthanded, however, and when I rotate my phone clockwise to landscape, the app shows its file browser correctly, and then displays the movie itself upside down.

Retarded. Brutally, freaking retarded.

I deleted and downloaded the app afresh. No difference.

How does something like this get through a developer’s process?

I filed a support email with the developer, but didn’t get a response. So, I decided to try letting Apple know what I had experienced.

Whenever you download an app, you’re emailed a receipt (even for free apps). On that receipt is a “report a problem” link. So, I followed the instructions, and sent an email expressing my issues with the app – that it’s basic functionality didn’t work, and that it made claims of functional behaviour based on the experience expectations Apple provided (rotation) that wasn’t implemented correctly as the user would expect.

I asked for a refund or iTunes store credit so that I could buy a different app to do the job.

Less than a day later I received a response from Apple, and here it is… I’ve removed the CSR’s name, only because I’m not sure about the ins and outs of naming Apple employees in this situation.

Hi Matt,

[removed], here from the iTunes Store. I understand that your purchase of “DataCase” has not been functioning as expected. I’m very sorry to hear that this item did not meet the standard of quality you have come to expect from the iTunes Store. I can certainly appreciate how eager you must be to rectify this issue, and I would be more than happy to help you out with this today.

I have gone ahead and reversed the charge for “DataCase”. You will see a store credit of $8.17 plus any applicable sales tax, on your iTunes Store account in three to five business days. You may need to sign out of the iTunes Store and then sign back in before you see the credit in your account.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding this issue, please let me know and I would be more than happy to address them for you. Thank you very much for being part of the iTunes Store family, Matt, and I hope you have a great day.

That’s good customer service. It’s perhaps an overlooked advantage of Apple acting as a gatekeeper in this market. Apple gives us certain expectations of polish, and their position as a gatekeeper means we can use their standards against developers who drop the ball.

The happy ending is that I bought Olive Toast’s Files, and it works wonderfully.

Surfing The Deathline #4 Progress

So, with SDL #3 done and published, and my big sculptural project out of the way, I’m now turning attention back to SDL #4. The first 14 pages are roughed out, which is problematic since I’d decided the opening scene was to be 8 pages.

I think I’ve sorted a compromise, however, it just requires a small re-pacing.


The site is evolving again, so there may be some appearance stability issues over the next little while. Personally, I’m rather enamoured by this new theme (well honestly I’m enamoured of all the work I do, otherwise it doesn’t see the light of day). There’s a nice Tron-esque sparseness about it.

An Essay on Modernism

Following is an art history essay from my second year core Modernism course. It seemed to do reasonably well in marking, so I figured I may as well publish it. The length restriction was 1200 words, and so as the marker rightly suggested, it can become a little point-like (what happens when you’re editing down).

Question: To what extent is modernism a response to the Industrial Revolution? Did it replace the classical style of pre-industrial Europe? In your answer you may refer to a range of practices, including architecture, ceramics and photography.

Modernism is a tacit realisation that the overwhelming direction of the arts since the beginning of the Renaissance had run its course. Sculptors had made stone look as much like flesh as possible. Painters had made the flat surface of the picture plane as convincingly deep as the horizon, and builders had replicated the Greek temple and Roman arch for everything upto the metaphorical garden shed. The time of illusion through technical dominance of materials was drawing to a close (along with that of the craftsman who wielded that dominance), and a new era of honesty and sincerity to materials and function was dawning. Modernism therefore, is both a response to and enabled by, the industrial revolution.

Continue reading “An Essay on Modernism”

damn right

Somebody taking Adobe to task for their mediocre user interface ideas in the new CS4 versions of their apps.

About freaking time.

on facial expressions

This entry was an article I wrote, which was published in the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine “Newswrite”.

Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking Graphic Novel series The Sandman fills approximately eight inches of my bookshelf. The final major volume, The Wake, is a funeral for the main character, Dream. Characters from throughout the series are drawn to it, to make their eulogies.

In my life, I have attended three funerals. Two for grandparents, and one for a high school friend, murdered in the October 12 2002 Bali bombings.

I did not shed a tear at any of them.

The Wake is a book I read on my own, such is the unmanliness of the weeping it elicits from me.

Why is this? I grieve so utterly over this fictional character, that I feel his passing more profoundly than I have any real person.

We could of course argue that Neil Gaiman is a great writer, and that there’s something wrong with the way my head works. Both of these may be true. Since I’ve never had this strength of feeling while reading prose, I think there’s something important at play here, something about the nature of the graphic novel as a medium that writers should investigate.

That thing, I believe, is the function of empathy and sympathy, as communicated through body language and facial expressions. The ability to read, and share emotional experiences, and to communicate with strength and subtlety at a mere glance, derives from the degree to which these forms of communication are instinctive, or rather, processed at a subconscious level.

In writing Surfing The Deathline, I presented myself a challenge – a story told graphically, yet relatively lacking physical action, the traditional fare of comics. Without descriptive or internal narrative, I had to rely wholly on the physical “acting” of my characters to convey every emotional cue I wished to invoke in the reader.

For the graphic novelist, this narrative limitation can be a powerful tool. We can use body language and facial expressions to reach straight into the reader and wrench their emotions, bypassing the logical and contemplative higher brain functions. Once readers empathise with our characters, they are open to sympathise with our message.

Surfing The Deathline is a political and social commentary, just as H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds was an indictment of the British Empire’s treatment of native peoples. Hopefully, as a result, readers will be prompted to think about and question some of the directions in which our society is heading.

The themes I’m attempting to tackle are poverty, isolation, terrorism, geo-political power, oppressive government, suppressive media, the war on drugs, anti-ethical morality, machine intelligence and human obsolescence.

Thankfully, one of the strengths of Science Fiction has been to facilitate placing social commentary in a format that appeals to the masses. Good sci-fi always creates a universe dense enough that it has an interest for readers beyond the characters. I like to think of this world-building as the result of combining three basic paradigms; geo-political, technological and sociological. A world, a disruptive key technology, and the effects on the general populace.

In Surfing The Deathline, after losing a network war with a trading block comprised of the third world, the USA is sundered into three nations, one of which is a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Europe, though racked with internal conflict, is again the ascendant power. The dominant technology is Machine Intelligence (M.I.), ranging from toasters that don’t burn bread, cars, automated factories and surgical expert systems, to the vast self-aware intelligences that are the broodstock for more mundane functional versions. Nowhere in any of this, are there humanoid robots. Socially, the trains run on time and have pro-government news reports screening in the carriages. Universities expel students if their research harms the reputation of their corporate sponsors, and sell student debts to collection agencies. Welfare payments are tied to tracking implants which exercise moral control over discretionary spending. Beer commercials screen next to news stories about harsher anti-drug laws and forced chemical detoxification for those caught using. The latest drug scourge is The Deathline, a mental accelerant. It’s considered an unfair advantage in the workplace. One of its side effects is that it can kill.

Unstable superpowers, uncontrolled technology, hypocritical leaders. Pretty farfetched, huh?

The story is about Eddie. He’s a homeless unemployed former M.I. researcher, kept out of work by a no-compete employment contract, who gets an opportunity to clear his student debts with a shady network cracking job. He has to go meet a dealer to score The Deathline in order to have a chance of success. They have a drug guru type chat about the nature of life, then Eddie returns to his campsite in the disused stormwater drains. Eddie takes the drug, and begins the job, in the course of which he discovers the awful truth about the disastrous events of his life.

The series of conversations that make up a large part of the key story events ran the risk of being a dull set of talking heads, the action finale being Eddie alone inside an enclosed hammock. Expressive physical acting, utilising hand gestures and facial expressions, was my solution.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with the books nominated in every local category of the Ledger Awards. Readers have commented specifically about their surprise and delight that in a visual medium, they were highly engaged by scenes of conversation.

These wonderful tools of physical communication are hard-coded into every reader, and they’re awaiting your characters’ performance.

on eating one’s own dogfood

Well, here we are with the new version of All database driven, and running in wordpress. This was done as a proof of concept – that I could use a readily available free platform like WP to provide the back end engine and all the post-design editing functions.

While I’m not going all out to do web design as a profession now, on occasion if an interesting project comes along, I’d like to be able to concentrate on the design, and base it on an engine that allows the client to manage the content themselves once my work is done (so I’m not doing 1 paragraph edits for ever afterwards).

It’s been an interesting journey getting this working – interesting in the Chinese sense. The biggest obstacle has been due to a rather nasty rendering bug in Apple’s WebKit rendering engine, which is the basis of the Safari, OmniWeb and iCab browsers. But, eventually I found a workaround, and now all is working well. If you do encounter any problems, please contact me and let me know.