ABC Open: Macadamia Thief

Australia has some of the most unique and beautiful wildlife. Growing up surrounded by eucalypts, I awoke to the sound of myriad birds every morning.

Whilst people seem united on the evilness of the magpie, one bird that divides people, is the sulphur-crested cockatoo. Many find their screeching annoying and fear that they will nibble and gnaw on their timber railings, whilst others find them cute and comicAl. I think that they’re absolutely gorgeous and I love to watch them. This photo (submitted by Backyard Zoology on ABC Open) perfectly captures their personality and I couldn’t help sharing it.

They’re kooky, they’re majestic and they really know how to crack open macadamias. We have a macadamia tree outside our unit and the way that they break through those nuts is unbelievable. It puts humans to shame.

Photo ‘Management’ on Windows

I’m a Mac user in the unfortunate position of having to use Windows at work. I know… first-world problem. It’s not entirely painful but there are still things to this day that are either clunkier or purely non-existent on Windows, which are just plain simple on the Mac.

Amongst other topics, John Gruber recently discussed the Mac and iOS Photos app with Jason Snell on The Talk Show. This discussion, along with a link on his site to a tweet about the inconsistent UI experience on modern Windows 10, reminded me of one of my pet peeves of working with the system: photo management and editing.

Something that Mac users take for granted is the fact that an app like Photos (and iPhoto before that) has been there to handle your entire photo library, album creation and image adjustments. If you want, you can invest in additional apps such as Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Affinity Photo or Pixelmator to kick things up a notch. On Windows 10, you’re still left with the default method that has existed for years: storing your photos in manually named folders in Windows Explorer. To get anything as robust as Photos that also syncs (or beyond for pros), you really have to invest in third-party software. Paint and Paint 3D certainly don’t cut it and the only thing that Microsoft has really added to improve the experience is an app called (wait for it)… Photos.

Whilst you can create your own ‘collections’ and ‘albums’ in the newer Photos app for Windows, it doesn’t act like Apple’s own Photos for Mac. You need to create an album by choosing preexisting files or folders in Windows Explorer. Talk about clunky…

If you want to open an individual photo for viewing or editing in Photos (to actually make changes, which Windows Photo Viewer can’t do), the experience is horrible. In fact, it’s not immediately obvious even for people who have a long history with Windows.

On the Mac, if you wish to open a file in a different application from usual, you would right-click on a photo on your desktop or in the Finder to select ‘Open with’ then select the app that you wish to use. On Windows, this process is essentially the same, however the Photos app is not present under ‘Open with’; instead, it has its own designated option under ‘Edit with Photos’. See below… it would be easy to miss if your Windows user muscle memory guides you to the ‘Open with’ menu item.

I couldn’t fit it easily in the mark-up but there’s even another separate ‘Edit with Paint 3D’ option! Why not ‘Edit with > Paint 3D, Photos’ etc.?!

In my experience, the extra frustrating thing is that clicking on the ‘Edit with Photos’ option rarely opens the photo the first time. It almost always requires a second click to open. I’m not sure if this bug is specific to me but it remains annoying.

Furthermore, the menu ribbon at the top of the screen is inconsistent with other Windows apps such as Word and Outlook, with saving functions moved to the bottom-right of the screen. Depending on your viewing context or level in the application, a ribbon-like interface will appear. This supports the general argument of why the Mac’s menu bar is so powerful—it’s obvious and permanently on the screen, regardless of where you are in any given app. Windows continues to play peekaboo with various functions.

You’ll notice that the options are ‘Save’ and ‘Save a Copy’. This means that the app doesn’t support the same kind of non-destructive editing that the Mac’s Photos app does. If you save the file, your image edits are applied to the file and you won’t be able to backtrack or undo anything when you reopen it. If you save it as a copy, you will have a (potentially) unnecessary duplicate. Again, this is the problem of not having a default library that handles this for you. You have to manage these things in folders by yourself.

If you’re a Mac user who thinks that Apple’s software is sometimes a little inconsistent these days, just be thankful that you don’t have to deal with this. Microsoft might have added a new sheen in Windows 10, however there is always something old, broken or plain wrong to be found a little under the surface.

Apple and Google Smartphone Branding

Apple is by no means perfect but if there’s one thing that they know more than any other company, it’s effective branding.

Take the following examples of Google and Apple advertising on Oxford Street in Sydney. It was difficult to take the photos from street level but I think that they still illustrate the point that I wish to make.

The above ad for the Google Pixel 3 is something of an oddity, with the handset being presented as an ice-cream. I’m not quite sure of what they’re trying to achieve here. Perhaps by showing the Pixel 3 as half of an ice-cream, it’s a subtle message that the phone is cool in a stylistic or figurative sense. Regardless of the intention, the choice of light pink against an only partially displayed white phone means that you actually pay more attention to the ice-cream half. Given Google’s history of generally selling Nexus and Pixel phones to tech enthusiasts, I would argue that there is an assumption that mainstream users will recognise and understand the Google branding with only the ‘G’ being displayed. I think that this is a mistake.

I could spend a lot of time talking about Apple’s choice to use the letter ‘X’ as the Roman numeral for 10 in its branding, which may or may not be a branding error, however that’s well and truly set in stone now. Most enthusiasts know to say ‘ten’ like in the days of Mac OS X but many others simply pronounce it as the letter.

Focusing on the ad, we see a much more effective design here. Both the iPhone Xs and Xs Max are displayed here and are aligned cleverly not only to make the colour droplet wallpapers match up, but also to show people that there are two sizes from which to choose. In addition, the heavy use of black throughout the image and far-extending wallpapers clearly send the message to passers-by that these are virtually edge-to-edge displays.

These days, Apple obviously has such enormous brand power that it can express meaning and style in the most minimalist of images. Google really seems to be shipping improved hardware these days (particular camera modules) but the company doesn’t have the same background in hardware design and branding as it does in search. It is an advertising company though, so surely that should mean something here.

What does Google want its phones to be and what message does it want to send? Apple expresses this clearly with its use of premium materials and its annual Shot on iPhone campaigns. Other than purely wanting to provide a stock alternative to the Android juggernaut that is Samsung, it’s evident to me that Google hasn’t really come up with a clear reason to communicate why consumers should buy its hardware.

Bespoke, Organic, Artisan Hipster Ingenuity

Recently at a market in Sydney I came across a stand for Joco. I had never heard of the company before but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I saw what they were selling.

Quite simply, they seem to have invented the flask. Yes, the flask…

We seem to live in an age of needless, overblown reinvention by hipsters. Like the time when Uber essentially claimed to have invented the bus, we’re witnessing the bizarre promotion of pretentious products, all of which are sold under the exaggerated (and often inappropriately used) labels of ‘bespoke’, ‘artisan’ and ‘organic’.

How such products survive without any kind of unique value proposition is beyond me, particularly when they’re sold at ludicrous prices. Frankly, I believe that it all comes down to rampant consumerism and personal obsession with status.

Choose Your Own Adventure with Café Signage

One of the most confusing things that patrons tend to encounter in any new café is whether they should wait at the door for someone to seat them, proceed to the counter or find a table by themselves. Clear signage at the entrance is key to avoiding such doubt.

Every now and then I encounter a situation where conflicting information is displayed. Take the example below; each image shows a different sign in the same café.

The particularly hilarious thing about this example is that the signs are in separate rooms, facing different entrances. Not only are patrons likely to be confused—especially if they spot both instructions—it’s also possible that staff will be uncertain as to which people have already been greeted and served. It’s a mess.

I continue to be flabbergasted at the total lack of common sense in the most banal of social circumstances.

How (Not) to Enter Clubs in New South Wales

For many years, I have been perplexed by the archaic sign-in system at Returned and Services League (RSL) clubs in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). Governed by the Registered Clubs Act 1976, which is based on even older tripe, there is a strict procedure for entry, which stipulates that all visitors must declare themselves as members, temporary members or guests. There are even further definitions, such as ‘honorary member’, ‘life member’, ‘full member’, ‘ordinary member’ and ‘provisional member’. Anyway, the idea is just to pay to become a member and do the fancy swipey-thing with your membership card to earn discounts and win meat trays.

In addition to the categorisation of all visitors, there are also restrictions on who is permitted to enter as a certain type of member, based on the location of their residence. This is explained on page 18 of the legislation:

(3B) A person whose ordinary place of residence is in New South Wales and is within a radius of 5 kilometres from the premises of a registered club (in this subsection referred to as the host club) is not eligible for admission as a temporary member of the host club unless the person is:

(a) a member of another registered club within similar objects to those of the host club, or

(b) a member of another registered club who is attending the host club as provided by subsection (10).

Got that?

Whilst it isn’t really ever difficult to enter RSLs, the fact that one has to show a driver’s licence or sign up for membership when entering isn’t exactly the most welcoming way of saying ‘hello’. Particularly for those who are visiting the state or country in general, this would give quite an odd impression. I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever I visit an RSL club with friends or relatives who are members. These days, more ‘modern’ venues have ditched the sign-in book for a licence scanner. The entrance ceremony is largely the same, with a somewhat lofty ‘G’day mate’ from an all-powerful guardian in black (called ‘Cheryl’ or ‘Shane’), followed with the slap-down of the licence on the scanning pane. Upon completion of the super-advanced card analysis, a receipt is spat out of the machine. Quite often, ‘Martin John William Feld’ is replaced with something like ‘Martn Jonn Wiliam Field’, alongside a barely legible, completely pixellated scan of my signature. The receipt must be carried throughout the club in case anyone asks to CHECK YOUR PAPERS. (This never happens unless you act like a fool.)

Beyond the bizarre sign-in procedure, all visitors are greeted by ridiculous signs that specify the required dress code. Many of the requirements fall under basic decency and common sense, however there are always a few fun inconsistencies to be spotted. Let’s go on this little journey together; take this sign, for example…

Of course, there’s the simple logic that if a sign is up somewhere to say that you shouldn’t be doing something, then that thing has probably occurred in that place before. According to this sign, torn clothing and leotards must have been worn in the past. It almost sounds like a post-apocalyptic remake of Flashdance.

Let’s move on to some of the linguistic errors. Regarding spelling, two possessive apostrophes are missing where it says ‘MENS SINGLETS’ and ‘MENS HEADWEAR’. Furthermore, three sentences are missing full stops and a number of common nouns are regarded as being so important that they have been transformed into proper nouns, such as ‘Club’, ‘Dress Rules’, ‘Dress’ and ‘Behaviour’.

My favourite linguistic error is the interesting use of a comma in the penultimate sentence: ‘OBSCENE OR OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE, OR CLOTHING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED’. The comma before the second use of the word ‘or’ splits the sentence in such a way that the sign actually suggests that if one does not agree to use obscene or offensive language, their clothing must be removed before entering the club. (It doesn’t say anywhere that total nudity is prohibited.)

Moving on, let’s address some of the other inconsistencies on this sign. The specific reference to men’s wearing of singlets and headwear suggests that women are in fact permitted to wear singlets and headwear, which makes no sense at all. The mention of no offensive shirts (rather than no offensive clothing in general) suggests that one may wear offensive pants.

The small white amendment over the baseball cap circle—in case you can’t read it— states that ‘HATS ARE PERMITTED IN THE CLUB, THEY MUST BE REMOVED IN THE BISTRO AREA’. It is unclear as to whether a hat (in the eyes of the club) only refers to baseball caps or actually refers generally to all headwear, in which case this would cancel out the later restriction of men’s headwear. What is a bistro ‘area’ anyway? Does this include some mysterious no man’s land that extends beyond the specified border of the bistro itself? Is there a customs check or airlock of some kind?

I’m also puzzled as to what would happen if someone were to enter the club at say, 7:25 pm, with the last restriction stating that overalls are not permitted in the club after 7:30 pm. Must a person who was permitted to enter with said overalls prior to 7:30 pm then leave the premises very shortly afterwards, or are they permitted to remain in the club, provided that they refuse to use offensive language and then remove their clothes, as stipulated in the sign’s aforementioned penultimate sentence?

Last of all, I do wonder at what time the restriction on overalls is lifted. One could assume that it resets at opening time the next day, however I am disturbed by their failure to address this point, given the specific nature of their other demands.

If you’ve made it this far, then surely you agree that all of this is a tad ridiculous. I’m being quite pedantic here but NSW has insisted on establishing the confusing RSL equivalent of Checkpoint Charlie at all entrances. No other type of venue on the planet offers paying visitors such a bizarre welcome and recipe for entry. Do they even want our money?

I hope that the NSW will improve its club sign-in procedures and dress code explanations in the future, so as not to treat visitors like a pack of dullards and criminals who may or may not be permitted to enter naked.

The New York Times: ‘As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants’

Facebook is now beyond a joke. Following its enormous Cambridge Analytica scandal (and numerous other major missteps), The New York Times has uncovered yet more privacy breaches by the company. More specifically, Facebook shared users’ personal data with other major business partners and tech firms, all of which were exempted from its normal privacy restrictions.

The publication shares how it discovered all of this:

The New York Times interviewed more than 60 people, including former employees of Facebook and its partners, former government officials and privacy advocates.

The Times also reviewed more than 270 pages of Facebook’s internal documents and performed technical tests and analysis to monitor what information was being passed between Facebook and partner devices and websites.

Some of the companies that are mentioned in this article claim that they were unaware that they were given access to such personal data, whilst those that admit they were aware claim the data was used ‘appropriately’. Regardless, Facebook should never have done this.

I deleted my Facebook account some time ago and my life is much richer for it.

Read the article here. It’s long but stick with it; if you finish it and still think that it’s worth keeping your account, then I’m not sure what it would take to convince you.