Technology


Using Older Products

5th January 2022

I’ve had enough thoughts on this idea to span a short book, but I had a moment today where I was just occupied with my thoughts, and I started contemplating using an iPhone 5 again.

A quick bit of a context: the iPhone 5 is my favourite phone to have existed, and I’m also a fan (nostalgically) of older technology.

Whenever I think about an older product like the iPhone 5, or whatever old product or service that I used in the past, I always end up watching YouTube videos like “Does X work in 2022?”.

After going through a moment of nostalgia, I’m always left with the thought that “of course it should work”. Older products don’t magically stop working when newer versions come out. In the same way that if you buy a Game Boy Colour now, and Pokémon Yellow, you’ll have the same experience as you would have done 20 years ago.

Surely as long as the hardware of a product remains functional, and any software updates keep the product working as expected, then technology should theoretically last forever?

When the question whether an older product or technology is still viable in a certain moment, if the need/purpose is still the same, then it is as suitable and capable as it was originally.

Of course, there are more specific arguments that could be made against this. For example, if you have an old iPhone and update it to the most modern version of iOS, while you may have newer features, your device is most likely going to run slower.

There’s a potential argument here that keeping software updates isn’t always the best way to keep something working for a long period of time. But I’ll save that thought for another day.

All I’m trying to say, is that when you think about older products, their capabilities aren’t usually what has changed. They can most likely perform the same function as they did originally. But what has changed is your expectations of what a certain product should provide.

My answer to every “Can you still use X in 2022?” question, is that if your needs have not changed and there aren’t any software compatibility issues, then of course you can.

The Restrictions for Younger Users on Douyin, China's Version of TikTok

27th November 2021

There's certainly a lot of opinions about TikTok, and technology that originates from China in general. But putting aside cultural and political differences, I've been reading about the rules that Douyin (China's version of  TikTok) have put in place for its younger users, and to be honest, I'm a fan.

I've got a pretty strong opinion that in general, social media isn't a good thing for children. But I'd have to admit that it does have its benefits. Especially given how intertwined social media is with the modern world.

According to Kerry Allen, a BBC China media analyst, these restrictions have been coming for a while:

For the last three years, official media has been warning that the growing amount of time young Chinese people are spending on the internet is having an impact on their physical and mental health.

I'm sure it isn't a surprise to most people that young people's physical and mental health can be affected by the internet, and in particular, social media. But I can't think of any other platform that has actively tried to combat the effects.

As for the rules and differences that apply to Douyin's younger users, here are a few:

  • Under 18s require consent from a legal guardian to use the platform.
  • More educational content is being produced, which will target younger users.
  • Under 14s can only access the platform between 06:00 and 22:00.
  • Under 14s can only use the platform for a maximum of 40 minutes per day.

The restrictions for under 14 year olds is known as "Youth Mode", and it requires what they call "real-name authentication", so I'm assuming that some form of identification is necessary, which would certainly be a controversial topic in the west.

However, I still think it's good to see that at least one social media platform is putting the health of its younger users before engagement metrics.

The E.U. Want To Enforce USB-C as a Universal Common Charger by 2024

24th September 2021

Louise Guillot, writing for Politico:

The European Commission is set to present a legislative proposal on Thursday to force manufacturers to use a common charger for electronic devices, according to a Commission official closely involved in the file.

The proposal will require all manufacturers to harmonize the charging points on devices — using a USB-C charging point — and to make their software protocol for fast charging interoperable between brands and devices.

The main target of the new legislation is U.S. tech giant Apple, which has pushed back against EU attempts to standardize chargers through binding requirements, arguing that it will hamper innovation.

This is such a fundamentally stupid proposal.

How can you enforce all phone manufactures to use the same charging port?

What happens when USB-C isn't good enough anymore?

What about the massive number of lightning cables that would be unusable by the current iPhone users? Does that waste not matter?

What if a manufacturer wants to only support wireless charging?

John Gruber echoed my feelings in the last sentence of his post[1]:

And people in the E.U. wonder why England wanted out, and why nearly all the major tech companies are from the U.S. and Asia.


  1. Of course, it was the UK that left the EU, not just England. But I think everyone gets the point. ↩︎

A New Found Appreciation for Control

13th August 2021

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed something change within myself, regarding my opinions on technology, and my preferences on what I’m willing to put up with.

For quite some time now, I’ve been a die-hard Apple user. I use a Mac, iPad, and iPhone at home, and also a Mac at work. My life is pretty much in Apple’s ecosystem. There’s a lot of pros and cons to that, some of which I wrote about in my piece: How Do I Know if the Grass Is Greener?, and also touched on when I was thinking about consuming media in Thinking Out Loud: What Is It To Be in Control of the Media That You Consume.

Most of those thought processes stem from the fact that before I used an Apple device, I was really into PCs, whether it was building them, seeing the latest technology, or just tinkering with them. But after I switched to a Mac, it felt like it wasn’t a device for tinkering, rather it was an off-the-shelf product that you used to get things done.

I don’t mean this to be an attack on Apple products, or just to be purely negative about them, because I think they’re some of the best technology products that exist today. But just like every other product, they come with their own pros and cons.

For example, I think that macOS is a better operating system than Windows in a usability sense, design, and overall cohesion with the Apple ecosystem. And the same also applies to iOS and iPadOS. However, there are times when I’ve felt like I’ve been wrapped in cotton wool, instead of having real control of my devices. That’s led to my recent thinking on Android phones, and imagining if I could ever make the switch.

These thoughts have been going around my head for a while, and one phrase came to mind yesterday that seems to sum up my overall opinion on technology: “I don’t want nice, I want control”.  And whether or not this is the reality, I’ve always felt like the Apple world offers more niceties and a cohesive experience throughout all of their products, and not exactly one that offers an abundance of control to its users.

All of this has led me to very recently (a few days ago), purchasing a PC. I’ll write about that on my blog in more detail soon, but it’s a Windows PC, relatively cheap, which I built myself, and I’m now having some fun playing World of Warcraft at the max settings with a seemingly lack of struggle.

I don’t know if this makes me part of the “PC Master Race” or if I’m actually going to be doing more things in Windows than playing games. But one thing I’m going to be doing from now on is to keep an open mind about technology. Somehow I went from being interesting in technology and computing as a whole to then thinking Apple products are the only ones worth thinking about. Whereas I’m now starting to realise that products are contextual. And that the quality of a product is contextual, to the use case, users familiarity, price, what downsides a user is willing to put up with, etc.

Maybe this just means that I’m now an Apple user with a gaming PC, or maybe it’s the start of a wider appreciation for technology. I guess I’ll just have to find out.

Introducing the Framework Laptop →

25th February 2021

Nirav Patel, introducing the Framework Laptop:

At Framework, we believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last. Founded in San Francisco in 2019, our mission is to empower you with great products you can easily customize, upgrade, and repair, increasing longevity and reducing e-waste in the process.

Today, we are excited to unveil our first product: the Framework Laptop, a thin, lightweight, high-performance 13.5” notebook that can be upgraded, customized, and repaired in ways that no other notebook can.

— Nirav Patel, Introducing the Framework Laptop

As much as I do like a few parts of this laptop:

  • It looks like a Mac.
  • Customisable ports.
  • Easy to replace components.
  • An actual good quality webcam.

You are still limited to running Windows or Linux (or maybe it could be a Hackintosh?). And I have no plans to ever own a Windows or Linux machine.

So it's not for me.

But I still think it's a fascinating idea, and I hope it will become a success, because I really like the idea of being able to repair and upgrade your own computer, and at a reasonable cost.

Our Devices Are Accessories to Ourselves

18th February 2021

Accessory
noun

an extra piece of equipment that is useful but not essential or that can be added to something else as a decoration
The Cambridge English Dictionary

When you think of the word “accessory” in the context of technology, you’ll probably be drawn to accessories for various devices. But I think you can apply the word to the devices themselves. Especially to the smartphone. They can be very useful devices, but at the same time are completely non-essential. Although our uses suggest the opposite.

In my opinion, we treat the smartphone too much as our lens through which we see and experience the world. To a point where we forget to see the world through our own eyes.

It might not seem like a problem to most people, using our phones a lot, since they can be fun, and they can also be pretty useful tools. But we can also fall into various traps where we end up doomscrolling for hours on end, where the smartphone has taken control and is now using you. And that’s not going to go well. Because we all know the internet and social networks especially, are simply cesspits of throwaway opinions, misinformation, fuel for confirmation bias, and an endless stream of people wearing digital disguises trying to make themselves look clever or aspirational.

I’ve got a lot of opinions about the various problems with social media, and the effect it has on people, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

I don’t think we should all rush to quit using social media because it can be used in a good way, but we should take a lot of what we find on our devices and the internet with a large grain of salt. Not everything you experience through your devices is indicative of the real world.


This post is part of the warmup week for the March Blogging Challenge, the theme today is Accessories.

Matt D'Avella on Downgrading to a Flip Phone

16th November 2020

The new iPhones are out, and therefore Matt D'Avella has decided to buy a flip phone. Not a fancy super-expensive flip phone that's still a smartphone, an actual original flip phone. To be honest, that screams "extra" to me. It sounds like a fun hipster idea that won't really last.

He points out that smartphones are designed to be with us on the go, giving us a mobile computer when we are out of the house. And with most people not leaving their houses for anything other than a walk or to go to a supermarket, there's not much use to them. Although, weirdly, I'm pretty sure people are just sat inside their houses on their phones anyway.

In his video, he went over the reasons why he's decided to downgrade from his iPhone, and the potential upsides to having a less-smart phone. As usual, it's one of his 30 day challenges, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Greg Morris on the Pixel 5

29th October 2020

Greg Morris, writing about the Pixel 5:

Something changed with the Pixel 5. Amid a pandemic Google began to focus on what they could do to bring a device together, and perhaps what their customers wanted. So instead of weird and wonderful new developments they absolutely promise to develop, they took half a step back. Creating a device that leans on tried and tested hardware, not the bleeding edge. Just reliable specs, done well and priced at a point that Google felt it can complete.

What Greg does here in this review is what I think more reviewers should do. And that is to describe the device on a way that people can understand and relate to. For example, instead of simply pointing out the size of the battery, Greg noted that “8 hours screen on time is achievable, and some of my more leisurely days this week I got almost two days of use”. That’s the type of information that is helpful to people when researching what phone to buy.

I think too many times people (including myself) look at the raw technical specs of a phone and simply compare them like a game of Top Trumps, and forget the context around them, or even the usability of them.

PaymentKit: How Apple Lets Some Air Out of this Pressure Cooker

2nd September 2020

Matt Birchler, on the improvements he wants to see regarding payments in apps:

Simply, I want Apple to allow third party payments in apps. This does not have to turn the App Store into some sort of hellscape where card details are stolen on the regular and no one wants to buy anything anymore because it’s so bad.

E-commerce has grown a ton over the last decade, and it’s grown almost as much in the past 6 months all over again. People buy things online all the time, and modern tools allow merchants to collect that data securely. I’d love to see that come to the App Store, but in ways that only Apple can do.

I like everything he proposes here, especially a “PaymentKit” API, which would allow some form of conformity to a standard, while offering a greater level of freedom to app developers. Mainly because other payment platforms would be able to offer their own options as SDKs to app developers, giving them and the end customers more choice.

Just adding this framework wouldn’t mean an immediate fix to the issue regarding payments inside apps. However, it would lay the groundwork needed for a more competitive marketplace. And with more competition, there will be an incentive to offer a better solution for developers and customers.

The Lopifit "Electric Walking Bike"

1st July 2020

I just came across this product via an Instagram post, and I just had to share it. I just can’t stop laughing about it.

Caption

It’s a bike that’s designed for exercise. Specifically high-cardio workouts. But instead of just making a normal bike that people can read, they’ve taken out the seat and pedals, and put a treadmill in the middle! So it’s not an “electric walking bike” like they claim, it’s a treadmill scooter. Which now I think about it, is no better than just walking!

Who even comes up with these ideas?