RIP Dark Sky

Dark Sky is dead. The iOS weather app that, according to Russell Jacobs at Slate, “forever changed the way we get our forecasts,” has ceased to function after being bought by Apple. I will miss it, but so it goes. 

I agree with much of what Jacobs writes in his little farewell to Dark Sky — it really did seem fresh and new and revolutionary when I discovered it so many years ago, and I became a complete devotee, relying on it ever since for my daily and minute-to-minute weather updates, even when it was clearly wrong so much of the time. 

Apple bought Dark Sky and now claims you can still get Dark Sky functionality in Apple Weather, but 

Back in September, Daring Fireball linked to ForecastAdvisor, which will show you a comparison of the forecasts for your location from many major weather services and tell you which has been the most accurate for your location for the last month and the last year. That’s what convinced me to switch to the Weather Underground as my weather source — for the locations I care about it is always either the most accurate or the second most accurate, trading places with the Weather Channel depending on the location or time period. I have never been a fan of the Weather Channel’s information presentation, and while the Weather Underground isn’t perfect, I’ve learned how to find the information I care about the most fairly quickly and easily.

That said, the weather app I probalby use the most is Carrot Weather, primarily because it has a great presentation on Apple Watch, which is what I probably consult the most for weather updates. It used to rely on Dark Sky for its forecasts, which was maybe one of its selling points early on, but now you can choose different sources, including Accuweather, which seems generally about 80-83% reliable (compared to the 82-88% reliability of Weather Underground over the last month/year). Carrot also has character and offers great lock screen widgets for iPhone, so… Is it worth $20/year? Probably not.

Singleminded Apple?

MacRumors says Apple is planning no major updates to its various products in 2023 because it is solely focused on its new AR/VR headset. 

Seriously? The biggest, richest corporation in the world can seriously only do one thing at a time, and that one thing is of entirely questionable value to anyone? Smh…

Kindle v. iPad for ereader? Kindle, apparently.

Being an Apple fan I have to admit I’ve always scoffed at the Kindle; why would anyone pay a couple hundred dollars for this thing when they could buy an iPod Touch for the same price or an iPad for a bit more and get so much more functionality in the bargain. Now, after seeing a comparison of the Kindle and iPad displays under a microscope, as well as both compared to printed text under magnification, I understand — the text on the Kindle is much, much more like printed text.

Oh, and just in case you’re thinking that the iPhone 4 makes these comparisons moot b/c of its famed “retina display,” think again. It’s far better than its predecessors, but still all pixellated compared to the Kindle.

(Original link via Daring Fireball.)

iPhones don’t like coffee with cream

contigo-mug.jpg I killed my iPhone this week. Have you heard of Contigo Autoseal Mugs? They claim to be “Impossible to spill, and 100-percent leak-proof,” and for the most part, that’s true. I’ve carried one full of coffee to work in my bag every day since I received it last Christmas. They don’t leak because you have to push a spring-loaded, recessed button in order for anything to come out. You push it when you drink and it seals back up when you’ve finished taking a sip. Works like a charm. Mine was awesome . . . until Tuesday.

Tuesday I filled my awesome mug with coffee (with cream, b/c that’s just how I roll) and packed it in my bag as usual, along with my lunch and various other items. Those items included my iPhone. I picked up the bag and was about to head out the door when I felt something wet on my foot. Looking down, I saw my bag was wet and dripping. I didn’t think this was a big deal. Obviously the items in my bag had jostled just right for something to push the button on the mug. When I opened the bag, I saw that’s exactly what had happened. And then I saw that it was a big deal: my iPhone was submerged in a pool of creamy coffee!

The iPhone does not like coffee. It especially does not like coffee with cream.

Of course I pulled it out immediately and toweled it dry. I pushed the home button. Nothing. I pushed the power button. Nothing. I held the power button down. Nothing. Dead. My iPhone, my ereader, my calendar, my address book, my game console, my weatherman, my phone, my text and email appliance, my twitter toy, my facebook facilitator, my so many, many things, was dead.

I was distraught. What would I do? Even if I had a couple hundred dollars (which I don’t) I couldn’t buy a new iPhone — they are sold out and people are waiting weeks to get one. I couldn’t go to an AT&T store to find a cheap replacement because that was the first day AT&T started selling the iPhone 4 at its stores so they were ridiculously busy — lines around the block in Chicago. And, just for good measure, it was also the same day Bloomberg reported that Verizon is getting the iPhone in January. In other words, now would be an awful time to get a new phone and re-commit to AT&T for another two years.

Taking some internet advice, I stuck my iPhone in a bowl of rice and just tried not to think about it. Two days later, on Wednesday night, I was thrilled to pull it out, push the power button, and see it come back to life asking for a charge. I charged it up and just like that it was back. Everything seemed to work just like it always had. Hooray!

So Thursday I had an iPhone again and I was happy. All was well with the world. I even got a little crazy and updated all the apps on my phone — 42 of them said they were ready for an update, so I just updated all of them. All those updates didn’t seem to change everything; the phone worked just like always, no problems. I stuck it in my pocket and went to work.

Sadly, a few hours later when I pulled the iPhone from my pocket, it was a brick again. Dead dead dead. Why!? Woe is me.

It’s still a brick. I stuck it back in the bowl of rice but why? What good is it going to do? Sadness reigns…..

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

From This American Life, the story of a the Mac OS graphing calculator that shipped in 1994 and was built by software engineers after they had been fired. (Listen to Act Two, beginning at the 26:32 mark.)

This whole story appeals to our ideals of what a job can be, that if we do what we want, that if we do what we love and do it our way, that eventually we’ll be proven right and the whole company will be better for it.

One of the engineers posted his version of the story here, but the This American Life version is still totally worth listening to.

Should You Upgrade your Old iPhone or iPod Touch to iOS4?

Apparently not. Some people are having problems upgrading. To me, the bigger reason to stay with iOS 3 is the reports that iOS 4 will make an iPhone 3G even slower than it already is. And for what? Folders? No thanks. I already have digital zoom with the Camera Plus app (not to mention video). I’m sure iOS 4 is great — if you have the hardware it was designed for. I don’t and since my only real complaint about the iPhone 3G is that it’s so damned slow, the last thing I want to do is slow it down even more.

David Foster Wallace on iPhone 4’s FaceTime

From Kottke via Daring Fireball, quoting from pages 144-151 of Infinite Jest:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation […] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.

[…] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.

There’s more, but you really should read the book. I’d forgotten about this, but it does ring true, doesn’t it? How many times are you really, *really* going to want a video call? For me, the answer is very, very few, and for pretty much exactly the reasons DFW outlines. The man was a genius.

The awesome of Safari 5’s “Reader” function

If you haven’t tried Safari 5’s “reader” function yet, I’ve just found the perfect use for it: Instructables, such as, How to make perfect basmati rice. Dave Winer has described pretty well how the “Reader” works, but basically if you’re reading some article that’s been split over multiple pages to get you to look at more ads you can just click the little “Reader” button in the address bar and suddenly you’ve got the article all on one page, ad-free. It’s awesome. I hope the rice turns out.