The Promise-and-Peril Edition Saturday, May 11, 2019

Meditation Apps Want To Calm You Down On The Same Device That Stresses You Out, by Eleanor Cummins, Popular Science

Self-improvement apps like Journey Live comes at an interesting time in the history of technology. Americans are more aware of the addictive design strategies built into their smartphones and smartwatches than ever before. Yet most feel powerless to cut back or quit. At the same time, a cultural emphasis on “wellness” and “self-care” has crested. In lieu of real systemic change, people turn toward individual pseudo-solutions, many sold by the same companies creating the problem. Even after the hyped launches of Apple’s Screen Time control and Google’s Digital Wellbeing initiative, users young and old still struggle to put their phones down.

Meditation apps are perhaps the purest distillation of this peculiarly 21st century problem. They encapsulate, in just a few pixels, the promise and peril of these thin black bricks we navigate, communicate, sleep, pee, poop, and, now, improve ourselves with. Curious, I downloaded a few of the products on offer, and set about answering a question we’ve all been forced to ask: Can one good app cure the sickness caused by the other 99?

The iPhone And The Mountain Goats, by Yonina Schlussel, Jewish Press

This incredible, yet completely true, story of my iPhone’s journey gives me tremendous emunah. As a busy wife and mother, when a very difficult challenge arises, I often find myself beginning to despair. Occasionally, I even feel like I have been “dropped off a ski lift” and “stuck in a foot of snow.” Yet, when I look at my phone, I remember that even in extreme situations, things that seem impossible can be possible. And that gives me the hope and faith that I need to keep doing my part.

Is Do Not Disturb While Driving Reducing Car Crashes?, by Adam Engst, TidBITS

As much as it’s frustrating to say this, 18 months after DNDWD appeared, we simply don’t yet know if DNDWD is making a difference. Gathering, analyzing, and compiling all this data clearly takes time, and even though we’re nearly halfway into 2019, the NHTSA hasn’t yet released the full 2018 numbers.

The 2017 stats—which encompass just 3 months of DNDWD’s tenure so far—were tentatively positive, showing small raw number drops in fatalities, even if the percentages remained the same. And the 2017 cell phone usage numbers also showed small decreases. Since the preliminary 2018 numbers indicated a 2.0% drop in overall fatalities, we can hope that cell phone usage and deaths associated with cell phone-associated distracted driving will also have dropped.


Apple Shares New 'Inside Joke' Privacy-Focused Video Highlighting iMessage Encryption, by Juli Clover, MacRumors

In the minute-long video, a woman is at a nail salon getting a pedicure, and she's receiving iMessages and cracking up at them over and over again. The viewer is never given a look at what she's seeing that's so funny, which emphasizes the fact that messages are private.

The Powerbeats Pro Raises The Bar For Wire-Free Earbuds, by Jeffrey Van Camp, Wired

These are the best wire-free earbuds for workouts I've ever used. They stay in place, come sweatproof, sound incredible, get twice the battery life of similar buds, and work well whether you're on an iPhone or Android phone. On top of that, they also smartly recognize when you take them out of your ears and route calls appropriately.

The Cooking App That Changed My Life, by Whitson Gordon, Medium

My collection of recipes doesn’t live in a physical container, though: It’s in an app called Paprika. And while Paprika bills itself as a “recipe manager,” it’s far more than a simple list of dishes. It’s really more like a cookbook shelf, grocery list, personal assistant, and fancy calculator rolled into one, and it’s become one of the most important apps on my phone.

Postal Address Insanity: Why I Switched From Spotify To Apple Music, by Josh Centers, TidBITS

If you wish to use Spotify and might ever want to sign up for a family plan, I strongly recommend copying down the exact address you enter somewhere, or you can do what I did and switch to Apple Music because I refuse to play these stupid games.


Annual Layers Design Conference Speaker Lineup Announced For WWDC Week, by Michael Steeber, 9to5Mac

One of the most popular community events coinciding with WWDC in San Jose each year is Layers, a conference about design, technology, creativity, and more. As June creeps up, the annual speaker schedule for Layers has once again been announced. This year’s lineup includes some familiar faces and new voices the Apple design community will enjoy.


An Interview With Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer At Adobe, by John Voorhees, MacStories

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to sit down with Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe who leads its Design Practices group and author of Vihn, who was in Chicago to speak at the HOW Design Live conference, talks about how Adobe is using Adobe XD to integrate UX and UI design and prototyping into the product creation process for everyone from freelancers to big companies. He also discusses designers' role in addressing the problems social media is facing, how artificial intelligence is beginning to play a role in design, and his podcast, Wireframe.

From 'Putt Putt' To 'Freddi Fish' — How Humongous Entertainment Made Edutainment Fun, by Nicole Clark, Vice

But when we look back at these artifacts of our childhood, we usually forget what I’ll lovingly call "the grind," which—unlike recreational games that involve endless foraging, crafting, and killing—asked young players to repeatedly solve math, logic, or word problems in activity gated environments. As much as I loved, and continue to love, these classics, there was never a question in my mind as to intent. Most of them were obviously education over entertainment.

Humongous Entertainment created a major wrinkle in that formula. The company, founded in 1992 by Ron Gilbert and Shelley Day, offered something different—a series of kid’s games that were based around narrative, character, and world-building rather than lesson gated modules. The two had come from LucasArts—Day worked as a games producer and Gilbert worked as a programmer and game designer—and specialized in creating adventure games aimed at adults. After seeing how much kids enjoyed playing adventure games, they decided to apply the same principles to games aimed at younger players.

Microsoft: The Open Source Company, by Peter Bright, Ars Technica

The news from Microsoft's Build developer conference that surprised me most was that Microsoft will ship a genuine Linux kernel—GPLed, with all patches published—with Windows. That announcement was made with the announcement of Windows Terminal, a new front-end for command-line programs on Windows that will, among other things, support tabs.

Microsoft's increased involvement with open source software isn't new, as projects such as Visual Studio Code and the .NET runtime have operated as open source, community-driven projects. But this week's announcements felt a bit different.

Bottom of the Page

I wonder if there will be any TV Channels on the upcoming TV app besides, maybe, HBO?


Thanks for reading.