Apple's iPad Event

Yesterday, Apple accidentally leaked the specs and design for their two new iPads, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3, before today's event.

After what seemed like another 3000 amazing dad jokes from Craig Federighi, including one totally adorably phone call with the one and only Stephen Colbert, Apple made it's first announcement. OS X 10.10 Yosemite would be available for download today, and that it would be free. Yosemite was first unveiled back in June's WWDC 2014 event, and it not only served as a total visual refresh of OS X to complement the more recent iOS visual overhaul, it brought forward a bunch of new things, most notably, continuity.

The second announcement was that iOS 8.1 would be available for download this coming Monday, and after the absolute nightmare that was iOS 8.0.1 that bricked any iPhone 6/6+ user that was unfortunate enough to have downloaded it, 8.1 looks to bring a whole slew of improvements to the operating system.

Also rolling out on Monday is the first stage in Apple Pay, Apple's NFC based payment system. The company has partnered with 500+ banks since it's initial announcement last month.

The biggest news of the event, however, wasn't a recap of the software we saw last month at the #AppleLive event, but rather it was the announcement of the new iPad Air 2, and the iPad Mini 3. Both devices have the Touch ID sensor that was first seen last year in the iPhone 5S, and now come in the champagne gold colour as well. The major difference now is that the two no longer stand equal. With last year's model, you could buy either the Air or the Mini, and not feel like you were settling for something lesser than what the other offered. It didn't matter what screen size you bought - you were getting the latest and greatest from Apple. Now, the Air outstrips the Mini in every conceivable way, from the inclusion of the A8 processor to a thinner design. The Mini, however, remains the exact same, without even getting a spec bump to last year's A7 chip, and has the same thickness. It's essentially a non-upgrade, and more expensive than it's near identical twin, the iPad Mini 2.

And this is where the first of Apple's many problems comes from - a total lack of focus. The designs of the iPhones and iPads are completely different, and from a company that prides itself on it's uniformity and continuity of design, that's simply unnacceptable. The new iPhones have tapered glass that goes edge to edge and rounded sides, but the iPads still have the chamfered edges seen back on the iPhone 5 over two years ago.

And the worst part about all of this is that there are now FIVE iPads to choose from. Five. That's a play straight from the book of Samsung, with tablets from every generation and size imaginable creating a nightmarish situation when it comes to choice. And these iPads, with the exception of the Air 2, are all basically the same 'S' updates of one another. Sure, they're better, faster, and thinner, but they're all still largely the same as before. 

In a move unlike Apple, and more Samsung-esque in Nature, (which is weird given Samsung's recent efforts to make people buy their latest phones and not the $0 on contract Galaxy S3 from two years ago), Apple is still selling their older models. If there's one thing they should borrow from Google it's that once they move onto the newest hardware, from the Nexus 4 to the Nexus 5 to the Nexus 6, they should stop selling the previous generation, instead focusing on bringing people up to the newest hardware that the company is offering.

The problem's Apple is trying to solve in this refresh is a problem that no one has, that their iPads and iPhones are too thick. With the iPhone 6 and 6+, they reduced the footprint of the phone, but left an unsightly camera bulge which is atypical of Apple, and sacrificed the structural integrity of the device overall. Sure, the original iPad is thicker than two iPad Air 2s stacked one on top of another, but that doesn't matter to most users. Users want a device that will lost long, and that requires a larger batter. Most users would be more than happy with a slightly thicker device if it meant that it could do more for longer periods of time. Thinness does not necessarily mean innovation.

"Sure, they're better, faster, and thinner, but they're all still largely the same as before."

On top of all the iPad mania, Apple also announced a 27" 5K Retina iMac. It has a a 5120x2880 display, which contains 67% more pixels than a regular 4K display.

B0Fn2nGIQAEpOdh.jpg

Personally, I find this hilarious, especially since Apple has yet to optimize their Mac Pro to work properly with 4K displays, let alone dual screen setups. Even then, when it does barely work, everything is absolutely tiny in 4K, and even tinier in 5K, as seen in this image tweeted by The Verge's Nilay Patel.

A fully specced 27" 5k Retina iMac also comes with a pair of binoculars. *Squint squint.*

A fully specced 27" 5k Retina iMac also comes with a pair of binoculars. *Squint squint.*

The 5K Retina iMac will start at $2,499, and will be a great buy for anyone with that kind of dispoable cash, but for the time being I'd reccommend you wait unless you you can no longer see individual pixels and can no longer tell screen from reality. The weirdest part about this particular refresh is that the iMac cinema display with Thunderbolt, first released three years ago in 2011, didn't see an update. Even if you wanted to use that with Apple's newer hardware, you won't be able to as it has Thunderbolt 1, and doesn't support Thunderbolt 2 which is needed for 4K.

I'm not entirely sure what the event tagline, "It's been way too long," means either., other than possibly, "It's been way too long since we last made you spend a boatload of money on a product we may or may not completely refresh 11 months from now." And once again, there was no mention of either an Apple TV (although the refresh Mac Mini could be Apple's solution for that for the time being) or a Retina MacBook Air.

All in all, you could call this Apple's laziest hardware refresh event in a long time, and you wouldn't be wrong. All of their products seem incredibly disjointed, and despite having massive Steve Jobs quotes outside the event venue, the company seems to lack his laser like focus. Apple lacks the brand consistency that it used to have right across the board. It's slowly unifying the software design experience across OS X and iOS, but the hardware remains as different as ever. From a company that used to be as tight as Apple, that's a little worrying.

Meet the New Nexus Family

Yesterday, in a style that's completely their own, Google officially dropped the Nexus 6 and Necus 9 devices for pre-order online, with Android 5.0 Lollipop shipping on both devices and coming to the Nexus 5, Nexus 4, and Nexus 7 (2013) in the coming weeks. So, how do the look, and how do they stack up against the other flagship contenders from 2014?

Nexus 6:

  • Manufacturer: Motorola
  • 5.96" QHD (2560x1440) AMOLED
  • 2.7Ghz Snapdragon 805
  • Adreno 420 GPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32/64 GB storage
  • 13MP/2MP (4k 30fps)
  • 3220mAH battery
  • $749/$799 unlocked
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

Nexus 9:

  • Manufacturer: HTC
  • 8.9" 4:3 (2048x1536) display
  • 2.3 Ghz NVIDIA Tegra K1 64 bit processor
  • Boomsound
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32 (WiFi) & 32 (LTE) GB storage
  • 8/1.6MP camera
  • 6700mAh battery
  • $399
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

The long rumoured and finally confirmed HTC Nexus 9 marks the company's return to the Nexus brand, and their return to making tablets after three years away from the field. For a struggling OEM like HTC, this just may be their saving grace as it's a beautifully designed piece of hardware that's packed with future-proofed internals. A prime example of this is it's NVIDIA Tegra K1 blasting through the GeekBench benchmark tests, beating out the latest and greatest A8 chip from Apple's iPhone 6/6+ devices.

After 2 generations of Nexus devices with super cheap prices/mid-range hardware it's surprising to see Google go ultra premium with the Nexus 6. While it looks like a blown up Moto X (2014), it's important to note that it's footprint is roughly the size of the 5.5" iPhone 6+, and is only slightly larger than the new Galaxy Note 4That being said, the large size of the phone puts it into the same mental territory for me as the Galaxy Mega, Xperia Z Ultra, and the Huawei Ascend Mate (and lives up to it's internal code name, "Shamu"). While it may not physically be so large, I've often said that the 4.7" to 5.2" range is the perfect screen dimension for optimal one-handed use. As soon as you have to implement features like a one handed keyboard off to the size or iOS 8's reachability, you know that it's starting to become a problem.

One thing I'm concerned with, however, is the supposed re-splitting of Google's core messaging services. In Android 4.4 KitKat, Hangouts became the default messenger for both Hangouts based IMs and SMS/MMS. We all know how well that was received, partly due to the fact that OEMs like Samsung, HTC, and LG, insisted on adding their own stock AOSP based SMS messengers as the default apps, relegating Hangouts to another app drawer icon never to be touched. And that's one thing that Google is absolutely awful at; figuring out how to do messaging right, and it's something they won't figure out unless they stick to their guns and stop doing nonsensical things like this. Hell, it took them over a year to implement SMS into Hangouts, and even then it was a half-baked clusterfuck that all iMessage users could point towards, laugh, and feel superior about. /rant

The Nexus 6 marks the end of the "subsidized" phones sold directly from Google, and I can see more people buying the Nexus 6 on contract now rather then off because it's immediately cheaper in the short term. Google is apparently still going to sell last year's model, the Nexus 5, probably with a reduced price point, for those that don't want to scale up to such a large phone in the Nexus 6. Personally, I'm not sure if I want to buy such a large phone, especially when there are smaller offerings that pack equally as big a punch, such as the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. The name might be a mouthful, but damn if it isn't a really nice device.

The Nexus family just got a whole lot better, and I can't wait for the initial reviews to start rolling in. It's an exciting time to be a smart phone enthusiast, that's for sure.


Nexus 6 + Nexus 9 = 15

Today is the 15th of October
15-10 = Android 5.0 Lollipop

Google DEFINITELY had this planned all along.

When Moto X (2014) users see the Nexus 6.

Why #Bendgate is Important

Two days ago, YouTube user Unbox Therapy posted a video demonstrating how under the pressure exerted from just his hands, he was able to bend and seriously damage the week old iPhone 6 Plus.

Before Lew, the man behind Unbox Therapy, could even offer a follow-up video in which he tried to bend a few other phones - including the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Moto X (2014), Nokia Lumia 1020, HTC One (M8) and the 4.7" iPhone 6 - #bendgate took the news world by storm. Twitter users were reporting seeing large and local media outlets reporting on how the iPhone 6 Plus had issues with bending. 

#Bendgate
  1. Designed to withstand the most demanding environments. Like your pockets. #HTCOneM8
  2. Oh fuck! It is now live on CNN and that guy was trying to bend it live on tv. Try bending a spoon instead!! #BendGate http://t.co/9jfhsklM7g
    Oh fuck! It is now live on CNN and that guy was trying to bend it live on tv. Try bending a spoon instead!! #BendGate pic.twitter.com/9jfhsklM7g
  3. To make matters worse/to get everyone to stop talking about #Bendgate, Apple released iOS update 8.0.1 that kills users cell service. Nice.
  4. BREAKING: Apple announces Searching… its new low-cost carrier available worldwide for free.

Now, while I don't necessarily agree that #bendgate - or #bendghazi, as some are calling it - should be getting so much attention as it has over the last two days, it's safe to say that if Apple had gone with a slightly thicker design, they would've been able to avoid this situation entirely. Going from 7.6mm in the iPhone 5S (8.97mm in the iPhone 5C) to 7.1mm for the 6 Plus and 6.9mm for the iPhone 6 resulted in the:

  1. The ability to have the camera remain flush with the rest of the device, leaving an ugly, protruding bulge (something Apple is aware of and is actively hiding in their promotional pictures of their two new devices)
  2. The removal of what most phones have - a magnesium chases, which makes up the inside of these other phones, even the ones that only have a metal band around the edges to ones entirely made of plastic. 

Due to the fact that Apple decided to go with a large, flat sheet of aluminum - a soft metal - the structural integrity of the device isn't going to be as sound as other devices made from a similar process, like the HTC One (M8). With a soft metal like aluminum, the weakest point is often going to be near the centre of the device. In the case of the 6 Plus, it gave into far more bending and resulted in far more damage because when compared to the 4.7" iPhone 6, the aluminum unibody build has nearly an extra inch of real estate. It doesn't help either that in Lew's video, he's placing the iPhone 6 Plus under far more stress than the phones are designed to undergo based on what an average person's usage of the device. Not everyone is going to be twisting and bending the phone to the extreme, but that being said, the phone still shouldn't be so structurally unsound as to bend and break when inside someone's jeans - which is what sparked this whole controversy in the first place. Case in point is Seattle developer, Kav Latiolais, who's brand new iPhone 6 bent after a spending the night charging.

By designing both a thinner and lighter phone, they were trying to solve a problem that no one ever really had with their iPhones, and in turned, created a whole new PR monster for themselves. Half the reason why this is blowing up so much is because when compared to "terribly cheap plastic" devices like the Moto X and Note 3, the iPhone 6+ took far more damage than you'd think a supposedly high end device, like the iPhone, normally should. The other half is that the iPhone is historically an incredibly expensive device. With people willing to drop hundreds to thousands of dollars year after year to secure a sense of material happiness, it's understandable why they'd be so upset when their week-old device starts to bend and break after normal usage.

This isn't the first time a phone OEM has had users report seriously damaged devices from simple bending. In 2012, an XDA user reported his HTC One X bent in half after sitting on a wall, and only a few months ago did an Android Central forums user reported that his HTC One (M7) was bent we as well, and two days ago, YouTube user, Adam Mckeithan, posted a video of him performing a bend test on his Galaxy S4. And while these users who report such severe damage to their devices may not be indicative of the entire user base, it's important to know that it is still happening. Even if it is only 1%, as Apple is reporting the bendgate numbers to be, out of 10 million devices sold as of two days ago, that's still close to 100,000 users reporting this issue. And that 1% talking about it was enough for Apple's stock to drop 3 points since yesterday, resulting in an $18 billion dollar loss from their $600 billion market cap. That's not a small amount, and isn't something to be brushed aside just because not everyone is reporting having the same issue.

And the thing is that there's nothing wrong with having a slightly thicker phone than everyone else, or keeping the same thickness as the device before it had. Over the last few years, there has been a race to ship the device with the highest resolution display. The leaps and bounds in this sort of technology also helped shape the phablet landscape we have today, and helped OEMs to develop thinner and sturdier phones than years previous. Apple largely stayed out of that because they recognized that past a certain point, the eye can no longer distinguish individual pixels. So while the iPhone's Retina display was sub 720p, it didn't matter to them or their users. By adding more and more pixels to a larger display, the users weren't getting anything extra, other than higher battery drainage. That's something that Sony acknowledged when they announced that they would be skipping over the newest fad, 2K displays. So for Apple to develop a thinner phone other than for the sake of saying that the new iPhone is 1mm thinner than last years model is frankly surprising. They sacrificed the clean, utilitarian look for something that looks more like a prototype than a finished product, especially when the new thinness does nothing for the overall user experience. It's okay to be thicker than everyone else, so long as it improves upon an already great user experience.

If it was any other company, Microsoft or HTC or hell, even Samsung, it wouldn't have mattered as much. Remember when Samsung's S3 and S4 devices had issues with overheating and exploding batteries? Even something far more serious like exploding batteries in more than one device didn't get nearly enough attention as "antennagate," an issue Apple faced back in 2010 with the iPhone 4. And that's because Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, etc., aren't a luxury brand like Apple has become. When you have people clamouring over a new phone every year, waiting in line for a hours, sometimes days on end, you leave the average consumer market and enter the luxury brand tier, being paired with other high end luxury items such as Louis Vuitton purses and Gucci glasses. It's as much a statement about your brand allegiance as it is a declaration of your apparent wealth.

At the end of the day, #bendgate is important for one reason and one reason only - it's this kind of nitpicking from users and reviewers that allows for the next generation of products to be better. From the iPhone 4 to 4S, Apple was able to make adjustments and resolve the entire antennagate problem. Companies aren't infalliable. They will make mistakes, and are often too close to their own products to see them. I'd rather have a few days of people going bonkers and having a little bit of fun at the expense of one company (and how their newest phone is bending unexpectedly) and have that lead to better products than not at all.

#AppleLive

#AppleLive
  1. Don't forget, Apple's v live event is happening today at 10am PDT/1pm EST!  http://apple.com/live 
  2. In other non-Apple related news, today is the 15 year anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast.  http://theverge.com/e/5890194 
  3. I'm hoping that Apple doesn't release the iWatch for another year, but announces the iTV instead, just to troll everyone and see them squirm
  4. And that Craig Federighi makes more super cool dad jokes. "The time has come for us to watch TV. See what I did there? Time, watch, haha!"
  5. OS X/iOS/Safari users can watch Apple's live stream here:  http://apple.com/live  Non-Apple users can watch it here:  http://ustream.tv/ltktv 
  6. I hope the entire audience just laughs at Apple if they release a rectangular watch
  7. It's interesting Apple is doing a liveblog but the fact that they are implementing social media with it is a major departure for them.
  8. I wonder if Apple will finally bring the iPhone naming scheme in line with the rest of their products - Pro, Air, & Mini. #ApplAppleLive
  9. I mean, they can't very well use numbers anymore, since they fucked up with the 5C. Think about it: 6/6C 6S/6C...S? #AppleLive
  10. Looks like the leaks were right about there being two new iPhones - the 6 & 6+. #AppleLive http://t.co/IBT4wbB12J
    Looks like the leaks were right about there being two new iPhones - the 6 & 6+. #ApplAppleLiveppic.twitter.com/IBT4wbB12J
  11. iPhone 6: 4.7"/1334 x 750/6.8mm iPhone 6+: 5.5"/1920 x 1080/7.1mm #AppleLive
  12. The new iPhones have some seriously impressive battery life specs. #AppleLive http://t.co/2WmjENHTUY
    The new iPhones have some seriously impressive battery life specs. #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/2WmjENHTUY
  13. The 6 has DIS, & the 6+ has OIS. The cameras on these new devices alone are enough for me to want to buy them. #ApplAppleLive
  14. The 6 on a 2 year contract is $199/32GB, $299/64GB, $399/128GB The 6+ on a 2 year contract is $299/16GB, $399/64GB, $499/128GB. #AppleLive
  15. Official off-contract pricings for the iPhone 6/6+: 6: $749/16GB, $859/64GB, $969/128GB 6+: $859/16GB, $969/64GB, $1,079/128GB
  16. You can pre-order the 6 & 6+ Sept. 12th (this Friday) and they start shipping out Sept. 19th. iOS 8 is out Sept. 17th. #ApplAppleLive
  17. You can get a Nexus 5 or two Moto Gs, a Chromecast and a large deluxe pizza for the cost of a 128GB iPhone 6 on a two year contract ($399).
  18. And for an extra $20, you could buy stock 13" MacBook Air ($1,099) for the price of a 128GB no-contract iPhone 6+ ($1,079).
  19. People are happy with iPhone thickness, disappointed with battery. So they made it thinner and kept the battery. Apple logic.
  20. I'm still waiting for a 128GB Android phone, preferably a Nexus. #AppleLive
  21. Tim Cook is trying to make it seem like taking my credit/debit card out, and handing it to someone to pay is difficult. #AppleLive
  22. Despite not having Google Wallet in Canada, we already have tap-to-pay, and none of these payment issues. #AppleLive
  23. This is basically Apple saying, "Look! We're the first to use NFC in 2014!" #AppleLive
  24. AND Apple Pay only works on the 6/6+ (U.S. only at launch as well); the only iPhones with NFC. #AppleLive http://t.co/ZBKJWo1279
    AND Apple Pay only works on the 6/6+ (U.S. only at launch as well); the only iPhones with NFC. #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/ZBKJWo1279
  25. Tim Cook with the legendary, "One more thing..." He looks so pleased with himself too! (Photo via @verge) #AppleLive http://t.co/zHCM8tmxmc
    Tim Cook with the legendary, "One more thing..." He looks so pleased with himself too! (Photo via @verge) #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/zHCM8tmxmc
  26. Standing ovation for Tim Cook. This is the day where he finally stepped out of Jobs' shadow, and into his own legacy. #AppleLive
  27. Looks like the master, Apple, is finally taking design cues from the student, Samsung. #AppleLive http://t.co/c43FUdXa2w
    Looks like the master, Apple, is finally taking design cues from the student, Samsung. #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/c43FUdXa2w
  28. So, the digital crown on the #AppleWatch is basically the side scroll-wheel that BlackBerry used to use. #AppleLive http://t.co/n6K7r6RJ2g
    So, the digital crown on the #AppleWatch is basically the side scroll-wheel that BlackBerry used to use. #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/n6K7r6RJ2g
  29. .@omnilogist There are so many issues with microSD cards - something both Apple & Google have acknowleged for years: http http://androidcentral.com/why-nexus-devices-have-no-sd-card 
  30. The #AppleWatch looks super clunky in terms of both hardware & software. It's nowhere near as slick/minimal as Android Wear. #ApplAppleLive
  31. Despite having 2 sizes, 3 case materials, 6 band types, the #AppleWatch is still a first-gen device. Wait for the second-gen. #AppleLive
  32. Apple needs to demonstrate one-handed real-world-style use on the #AppleWatch, not two. (Photo via @verge) #AppleLive http://t.co/tkQQryai1g
    Apple needs to demonstrate one-handed real-world-style use on the #AppleWatch, not two. (Photo via @verge) #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/tkQQryai1g
  33. Motorola should feel proud with the #Moto360. They absolutely DESTROYED Jony Ive's #AppleWatch design. #AppleLive http://t.co/FP8wMT1y8p
    Motorola should feel proud with the #Moto360. They absolutely DESTROYED Jony Ive's #AppleWatch design. #AppleLive pic.twitter.com/FP8wMT1y8p
  34. If you want to be an early adopter of the #AppleWatch, you're going to have to wait until early 2015...and spend $349. #AppleLive
  35. Especially considering that it’s tied to an iPhone, I think they should have gone cheaper on the Watch.
  36. Still no word on connectivity, water resistance, or battery life for the #AppleWatch yet. #AppleLive
  37. Tim Cook mentioned that its easy to charge the #AppleWatch at night, implying EVERY night you'd have to charge the thing. #AppleLive
  38. I was hoping that Cook & Bono would burn down iTunes together and announce a less bloated version of that monster. #ApplAppleLive
  39. This is kind of the opposite of burning down iTunes and starting over

Creepy Internet Men, Celebrity Nudes, & Privacy

Over the last two years that I've been frequenting Reddit, I've really grown to love and appreciate the site. It's just a total wealth of knowledge, and there's a subreddit for literally anything you can think of. It allowed me to move away from Tumblr, just before it turned into a network of pseudo open-minded individuals, but amplified everything I loved about it. It let me get a glimpse of the best content on the internet, without the awfulness of 4chan, or the delay of having "viral" posts posted to Facebook three weeks after they've worn out their welcome. 

The best part though is that it taught me what all of these newfangled acronyms, like FWIW, IIRC, & FTFY, mean.

The best part though is that it taught me what all of these newfangled acronyms, like FWIW, IIRC, & FTFY, mean.

However, yesterday I began to lose faith in the network. After I got home from a long day at work, I was browsing Twitter to catch up on things that I had missed, and saw several tweets regarding a supposed iCloud hack, and a massive album of celebrity nudes. Being naturally intrigued by this whole thing, I went and check it out, and I could not have been any less stoked by the whole affair. I felt weird, and pervy scrolling through, and before I hit even the 10th of a seemingly endless page, I had to quit.

I sat down, and decided I was going to talk to two of my friends about this, and I realized that I wasn't alone in feeling mixed emotions. On one hand, it's not great seeing people being dumb, taking nude selfies, and it's even worse seeing their privacy being completely and totally violated. But, on the other hand, boobs are great, and these are people displaying that they're completely comfortable with their bodies by taking these selfies, so who are we to judge? There's nothing wrong with wanting to display your body, or wanting to be comfortable with your sexuality. There is something wrong in having that done for you without your consent, however.

The thing is that we should judge - not the celebrities, but rather the men and communities on Reddit that perpetuate and allow these sorts of creepy, horrible acts to continue. The biggest issue that I, along with many others, have with Reddit, is the laissez-faire attitude that Reddit managers seem to have taken. There is a culture of free-speech on the site, and while that has fostered countless great conversations on countless topics, it has also allowed people like Michael Brutsch, a.k.a u/violentacrez, to create horrible subreddits such as r/jailbait, and r/creepshot.

It goes back the topic I wrote about a few days ago, on how misogynistic internet trolls are ruining this whole experience we share on the internet, something so ubiquitous, by being total scumbags, and it all starts at 4chan, the head of the great Internet human-centipede.

The problem lies at the heart of Reddit; total anonymity. One of the two golden rules on the site is no posting of any personal information (the other being no child porn, but seeing as how far u/violentacrez was allowed to get, it's easy to see that Reddit is, again, super laissez-faire in making sure that they're own rules are followed), except for when it involves naked female celebrities. There are countless subreddits that thrive on this kind of traffic, from r/celebs, r/WatchitForThePlot, and r/nakedcelebs. The sidebar information of the latter actually reads as follows:

"To clarify, I mean full out porn, nude shots, bikini shots, leaked sex tapes. Any dirt you have on those hot Hollywood stars post it here!"

Reddit allows for users to remain totally anonymous, and I'm sure that they're grateful for that, but doesn't allow the for the same level of privacy when a massive celebrity nude leak takes place. And this double-standard doesn't just apply to Reddit.

Commenters all over the web are comparing this to the reaction the public had when Anthony Weiner, former U.S. Congressman, was caught sending pictures of his penis. The issue there is that these women likely weren't sending them to other men and women, but were rather keeping them for private purposes, where as Weiner was actively sending these explicit images to three different women. In this case, it was directly Weiner's fault, as he wasn't hacked, and didn't have these pictures displayed without his permission. He willingly, and knowingly, sent them out himself. These women did not, and that right there is the difference that needs to be made clear.

The Verge's T.C. Sottek posted an article today calling these creeps out, rightly so, and chillingly compared those who supported the leak to those who disliked the NSA. 

It's easy to say, "don't take nude photos!" or, "don't back up anything private to the cloud!" Living in the modern world necessitates the use of the Internet, and yes, while there are ways to minimize the risk of being hacked, are these women not entitled to just as much privacy we as non-celebrities are? It's basically like saying, "don't bank online, use your credit cards to purchase anything on Amazon, or use e-mail. You have to this all in person and offline, all because SOMETHING embarrassing may come back to bite you in the ass." These photos were private, and short of using an analog camera, getting them printed (and possibly duplicated and swiped during the printing process), placing them in a scrapbook inside your house with steel-reinforced shell covering your house to prevent buglers to get in, what do you want these celebrities to do? They're human, just like us, and as humans, are allowed some modicum of respect and privacy.

While these photos will eventually disappear from the public mind, it doesn't matter. The privacy of these women was violated horribly, and  this whole affair will bring into question the safety of cloud storage, automated photo backup, and more horribly, lend a sense of legitimacy to the god-awful movie, Sex Tape.

This clip, however, does articulate the point that it is the woman that has to live with the consequences forever.

But this isn't entirely about what's on our phones these days. It's about women being objectified, shamed, and treated like objects. The Twitter hashtag, #IfMyPhoneGotHacked, is a prime example of this shaming, with terrifying shades of Elliot Rodger thrown in for good measure. It's one thing to view these images, even if in particularly scummy way, but it's another thing entirely to go after these women only to harass and mock them for being victims of something they could not control.

People want their own privacy, but do not care for that of others, and that's what happens when we as a society value anonymity more than pure, simple, unbridled decency

What The F*** is Going on with Video Games?

I haven't been someone who would consider himself a gamer by any stretch of the imagination for many years now. The last two consoles I owned were the Nintendo Gamecube and the Sony PSP, so that should give you an indication as to how out of touch with the industry I am. That being said, I do have regular conversations on the topic of video games with my friends who do play far more regularly than me and are far more invested in the genre than I am.

Which leads me to the burning question, what the f*** is going on with video games? Over the last 24 hours, all I could see on my Twitter timeline was tweets regarding Anita Sarkeesian's YouTube videos on women in video games, and the whole thing is rather insane. 

This multi-part video series by Sarkeesian, a prominent media critic, gathered particular attention on Monday when she posted a video about women being used as background decoration, usually in violent or overly-sexualized ways. The response from many writers in the industry, and many developers as well, was largely positive, while the response from a portion of the male gaming population was horrifyingly negative. The level of cognitive dissonance displayed by the critics of Sarkeesian is ridiculous. They hate feminists and attack people for being 'fake feminists,' which they are oddly offended by. They threaten people on the internet, and then say the people are attention seeking when they complain about being threatened.

To me, this seems to largely be about a lack of wanting any change in the video game industry, and following this, two groups seem to have emerged. One side has staunchly folded its arms and harrumphed in the most child like manner, as they view themselves to be the old guard to this hallowed institution, while the other has openly and lovingly embraced this change, as they realize that they are no longer alone.

What Sarkeesian is attempting to do, I think, is deconstruct what so many people use as a form of escapism and rebuild it into a bigger and better version of itself. And for whatever reason, so many are taking this incredibly personally, understandably so, as I can see them feeling like they're being attacked for what they like. The thing is that this isn't something to be taken so personally. Look at it this way; when a sports fan has a conversation and it turns to how players are payed more than they really deserve for tossing a puck or ball around, you don't see that fan then bypass the argument altogether and issue a death-threat, just because they don't like what they're hearing. It's not so much an issue about the money in the case of sports, but rather, an issue of how to move forward together and improve together as well.

Sarkeesian is not saying that you as a person should feel bad for playing games that are violent or use women as particular storytelling tropes. That's not the case. She's making the case that not all video games are like this. Take Monument Valley, or Journey for instance. They're beautiful, emotional, and evokative games that did incredibly well because they told a compelling story in a new and different manner. They didn't rely on the same old tired story telling found in most major blockbusters.

The particular trope of women being used as background textures, as Sarkeesian points out, is one that is fetishized in the weirdest possible way. 

 It is the collusion of violence done to women’s bodies and the fact that it is often sexualized. The idea being that a dead woman is still inherently beautiful, even if her body has been maimed, her life stolen from her, something arousing still remains available for male consumption...Developers regularly utilize the brutalization of women’s bodies, and especially the bodies of female prostitutes, as an indicator of just how harsh, cruel and unforgiving their game worlds are. In some of the most pernicious examples, dead or mutilated female bodies are used to decorate virtual game environments as a way to invoke a sexually charged creepy mood or edgy atmosphere.

When a film wants to get a rise out of the viewer, or to illicit anger in the character, they might kill or seriously injure the family, or adopted, pet, such as a dog. But in a fully immersive world, that sometimes might not cut it, so developers often turn to women to get that similar sense of anger to justify the sense of righteousness later down the road. All Sarkeesian is asking, in her videos, is why does it have to be a man saving a woman? Why not allow for a role reversal? For instance, look at Tomb Raider. It's a series with a strong female lead loved by both men and women. Why do we have to limit ourselves in a world where there are no limits?

It goes even deeper than though. Often an argument is made that, "but men are also idealized and made to seem more than what we actually are!" It's not necssarily a bad thing or wrong to sexualize and idolize the human body, but the issue here is that it's the men doing the idealizing of both men and women in gaming, and that's a serious problem.  

I think the answer to all of this comes down to demographics, and subsequently, money. As my best friend said,

It's also a for-profit world. Even if we could imagine ourselves being 22 in 1989, how many black female gamers could we have counted compared to white male gamers? It may have shifted in the years since, but for big companies more about money than games they will create the digital world that will net the biggest profit. Game devs don't take risks like they used to. The midtier games have completely fallen out, there is only Indie with a cutesy making-of backstory or AAA don't-fix-what-ain't-broke sequel, everything else is doomed to fail. Couple that with a previous console generation that lasted 7 years, and is still going, and companies going out of business after one bad game, despite a prior fantastic track record you have to appeal to the largest common denominator. That is, the white male gamer. They'll incorporate other demographics, but only if resources/motivation permits.

While I tend to agree with his point of view in regards to the video game industry, I saw a few flaws in his argument. No one is saying make a game that would outright exclude men, or outright exclude women. That wouldn't work, and like he said, would spell certain financial disaster for said company. But it's not 1989 anymore, and there are huge pockets in the community are seriously underrepresented, or not even represented at all. No one is saying that a change has to be made overnight, but a change does have to be made eventually.

Perhaps it also has to do with the most people who play video games, or table-top games, or games in general, feeling like they HAVE to be defined by this one particular hobby of theirs. It's understandable, given the particular history behind video games. In the past, it was gamers versus jocks, in which gamers had to band together to feel united by what they loved. This entrenchment mentality has only grown, so now it's gamers versus women. So much of the nonsense revolving around Sarkeesian in particular has to do with gamers needing to feel like a put-up minority in the grand world of entertainment to justify their identity. They feel like their identity cannot exist unless they are in some form of perpetual crisis, being threatened by an external force.

The problem with this approach, and with the culture of gaming in general, is that again, like most other forms of media, it's entire basis is built upon crass consumerism. Sure, there are pockets that go to conventions and dress up as their favourite characters, and contribute fan art to various forums, and feel a distinct sense of community "culture", but it's a system meant for consuming. When a "culture" is built around this premise, there are no walls for entry. Anyone can join and participate, but the "true believers," or the hardcore, most dedicated of fans, often feel the need to gin up reasons to feel attacked. "I was here first!" or, "You only like Iron Man because Robert Downey Jr. is handsome," or, "You can't be a true fan because you don't know this piece of obscure trivia that really has no relevance to the overall plot or universe, nor has any relevance to being a fan or not!" Those are often the most common attacks on new entrants into any particular fandom, and more notably, gaming.

This all stems from gamers still thinking that gaming is still largely a subculture, when in fact it's no more a subculture than movies are today. What was once a subculture has turned into a multi-billion dollar corporate industry. Everything, from the games and consoles themselves, to the ancillary products like DLC and merchandise - it's hyper-consumerism at it's finest.

Being a hardcore, or casual gamer, has nothing to do with the overall genre of game you play, but rather how you approach games as a whole. There are hardcore players of Candy Crush Saga, who pour hours into the game and spend hundreds of real world dollars through microtransactions, and there are casual players of games like Demon Souls or Call of Duty, who play it to kill of some steam, and not because they're invested in the game. And the problem with consumer culture is that it makes people feel a sense of ownership, or even a sense of dominance, over something to ubiquitous. In the case of Sarkeesian, it's as if an army of tiny Archie Bunkers is fighting back against the non-existent threat of women in gaming. It also doesn't help when you have sites made by gamers that focus on how gamers are attacked and victimized, yet completely skip over the fact that gaming is still an overtly sexist, often racist, sect of the entertainment spectrum. However, after reading Devin Faraci's excellent blog post, I can see how it's so easy to be drawn into the dark side of Gamer Gate, especially if you're an ignorant fifteen year old (and almost all of them are).

"A lot of these kids - and they are, without a doubt, largely kids - are simply ignorant. They don’t understand the world, and that includes everything from how gaming websites work to how people interact as adult, sexual humans. Their confusion about this stuff leaves them susceptible to conspiracy theories trotted out by the truly evil members of the #GamerGate posse..." - Devin Faraci

Video games by their very nature are a form of escapism. They may hold some truths, but are inherently acts of fiction. By not allowing video games to grow and mature beyond graphics and racier content, anti-Sarkeesians are doing more damage to an industry that they claim to love than what Anita could ever even hope to do herself.

The biggest question that comes to my mind is, why? Why are we so stuck and dead set on playing the same games over and over again, in slightly varying settings? Who would want that? It would be so damn boring. Change is hard, yes, but it does bring forth amazing new things. For example, look at Octodad. It's a completely random game that came out of the far left field, and it looks phenomenal.

It's new, fresh ideas that bring people together (and drive them apart apparently as seen by the conversation on Twitter this week). It's new ideas that allow you explore brand new, previously untouched worlds, and that is what gets people so excited. Case in point, the Moto 360. It's so simple. We already wear round watches, and square smart watches look ugly, so let's make a round smart watch. And it's all anyone can talk about, BECAUSE it's so different in such a familiar way.

Think about how excited you got buying a new game because you got to explore something brand new to you. How often can you say you've had that experience in the last five years? Personally, I can't, (because again, I don't play all that much), but it's an experience I remember quite fondly.

Look at how much fun this seems. Sure, it's an ad for a console that mainly sold first person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo, but it still managed to instil that child-like sense of wonder and happiness inside of me. It made me want to do something similar in real life. And that's the whole point about this - games are meant to be fun. They're meant to bring people together to launch shells, nukes, and punches at each other and rage quit when we lose. They're meant to cause meaningful discussion, but not divide people. They're not meant to anger people to level of actually issuing death threats. The video game industry, something in its relative teenage years, still has a lot of growing and maturing to do. It may not happen in sync with how we as people grow and develop, but given enough time, hopefully it will.

Perhaps in order to achieve the level of nuance we need in this discussion, we should look elsewhere, to books and to movies, and see how they overcame this very same issue of using women as background textures and items for men to use to propel themselves throughout the story. What I do know, and fully understand, however, is that most games follow a typical line, use lazy writing and misogynist stereotypes in order to appeal to the base line of supporters.

If I've learned anything in my 22 years of life, it's that if we want to move forward with anything, we need open discussions & open minds. However, I do think that another big crash similar to that of 1983 is imminent, and hopefully that allow both video games and developers alike to hit the reset button and start fresh. 

It's okay to disagree with Anita Sarkeesian, and it's even okay not to agree with her points and arguments (particuarly when she makes an argument comparing games from the 1980s to games of today, as both are a product of their respective generations). However, it's not okay to threaten anyone, online or not, with rape, mental or emotional assault, or even death. All of this has taught me that we need more people like her questioning why things are the way they are, and challenging us to be better versions of ourselves.

Glasses

Since I can remember, I’ve been wearing glasses. Wait, no. That’s a lie. I got my first pair of glasses when I was 8 or 9, in my fourth grade back in elementary school. Up until that point, I had never touched a pair, even though my entire family wears them. I remember talking to my mom about how everything seemed blurry; out of focus and that sometimes, I’d see two of everything and that’s when the headaches would begin. It was after this that my parents finally took me to an optometrist to get my eyes checked and it turned out, I too, much like the rest of my family, needed a pair of my very own glasses.

My first pair were these simple grey oval shaped ones. I still have them lying around in a drawer somewhere. But they were the coolest things ever to me when I was a kid because it had the type of frame that you could bend and twist and it wouldn’t break. That pair lasted me maybe 3 or so years, before I needed to get a new pair. My second pair were classier. A nice dark brown shade with a more rectangular frame, but still the type that you could bend.

The thing about glasses is that I don’t mind them. I know people who’ve said that they’ve been wearing glasses for longer or shorter than I have, and they hate it. They hate the way it leaves those marks on the bridge of your nose, or how sometimes it can make the back or your ears hurt. They hate the weight and everything about them, and how they would much rather have contacts. Truth be told, I hate glasses as well, but for a different reason. But in comparison to contacts, I don’t mind them.

I’ve always had a slight thing against contacts, seeing as how the idea of sticking something into or just in front of your eye has always freaked me out. It just seems weird and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to psych myself into wearing them. So for me, it had become glasses or bust. I also hate the idea of laser eye surgery; however minimal, there is still the chance of going blind, and that scares me way more than contacts do.

But the reason as to why I detest glasses. It’s simple, and it’s something that’s been with me since I got my first pair all those years ago. It boils down to the fact that you’re aware that your eyes aren’t what they should be. With contacts, you wear them and you can forget that your eyes aren’t as strong as they should be, because you don’t have to view the world through a frame that sits just outside of your vision. You’re aware of it being there. You can see it. You can feel it, but you can’t do anything about it. It’s there, and it won’t go away. I hate glasses because I feel like what I’m seeing is different from what other people are seeing.  It’s like for a specific part of my spectrum, my vision is crystal clear. But dart your eyes to the side and everything becomes fuzzy. It’s an unsettling feeling to have.

I guess I do have one thing to be grateful for though. I was born with my eyesight intact. I can see, even if it is out of focus all the time when I am not wearing my glasses, but at least I’m not blind.

Another thing; your mother lied. Carrots do not improve your eyesight. They help maintain it.

Why Google's "Real Name" Policy is a Good Thing

Yesterday Google announced a piece of information that frankly, I disagree with. When the company first launched Google+ three years ago, they required all users to use their real names on the platform. They slowly extended this rule outward into their other services like YouTube as they marched forward on their campaign to make Google+ the centre of all things Google.

When I began to think about it more, as the real name policy was something I never really gave much thought to until the announcement, I realized that I actually really liked it, and that's for a number of reasons. Reading through the comments on the official announcement, I could tell that I wasn't alone in that feeling as many other users expressed similar sentiments. The first thought I had was that if I wanted to look up someone, or some information on someone, I could just enter their real name into the search field and find exactly what I was looking for. Before this, and now, I would have to search for their online handle, which often differs across different platforms, making it yet another bit of data I would have to track (much like e-mail addresses). You can change your online handle as much as you want, but not your real name.

The real name policy also helped to create a better web in my mind. When Google first introduced the new comments system on YouTube, largely everyone was pissed, but I was excited. If it meant that forcing a change potentially for the better could help foster actual conversation between people rather than the nonsense we had, I was all for it. And the new comment system actually kind of worked. In the end, it kind of made YouTube comments  a little more tolerable, given that people couldn't necessarily hide behind a false username.

"Before Twitter, texting, and Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr, the weapon of war was a slam book—a spiral notebook with some miserable kid's name written on the cover, passed among frenemies who filled page after page with nasty remarks and devastating criticism. Eventually the book was tossed or lost, and the kid could recover. But with social media, there's no respite, no half-life for rumors and innuendo. On a whim, you can take your target out with the press of a button and sleep soundly. "There is 100 percent a lack of empathy on the Internet. You don't have to deal with the natural consequences of your behavior," says Jamie Howard, PhD, a clinical psychologist at New York's Child Mind Institute. "You say things you wouldn't say, and your conduct is harsher." Empathy develops when we receive cues from in-person interaction—you say something mean to someone, you see her cry, you feel bad. Technology can obstruct empathy's development and foster detachment." Holly Millea, Elle 2014

And that's the problem, the big double edged sword of the online world - anonymity. Personally, whenever and wherever I can, I try and use my real name as my online handle for a number of reasons I find particularly compelling. It lets people know exactly who I am, and it's a uniform, universal handle for myself across Reddit, Twitter Instagram, Google+ etc, making it super easy to keep track of and maintain, (and is one less thing I have to remember myself). The biggest reason, however, is that it helps me control myself online. There have been far too many occasions where I have been ready to reply with something incendiary purely because I was frustrated in the heat of the moment, but then realizing that the Internet is forever, and that it would be forever tied to my name, therefore my offline self, I stopped short. And when I do choose to comment, I remain directly accountable for both my words and actions online, and that is something I have always advocated for - being the same person you are online as you are offline.

However, that's not to say that I don't see the value in remaining anonymous online. There are communities across sites like Reddit and Tumblr, in which people get together because they feel a distinct sense of freedom and safety which they otherwise might not get by using their real names, and in those cases, anonymity is a great tool. However, like everything, it will, and has been, wildly abused. Rather than allowing for the best, most positive interaction, people are rewarded for the most interaction, and that's a distinct problem that the real name policy directly addressed. That's not to say using your real name prevents you from being a total moron - there are plenty of examples everywhere you look.

Personally, I feel like this is largely several huge steps backwards, and is something I wish Google hadn't bent on. However, I wouldn't be surprised if this, at least at some level, had something to do with the ridiculous "Right to be Forgotten" nonsense going on in Europe.

Blood. It's In You To Give (My first time, and why I’ll be a donor for life)

Today was the first time I ever donated blood, and I have to admit, I was slightly scared. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this irrational fear of needles, which has prevented me (probably for the best really) from getting any piercings or tattoos (of which I really want the latter). When I was in highschool, we had a blood donor clinic every year. They’d stay around for one week to make sure that everyone had a chance to donate, and learn about the process. I was unable to donate then, because I was just so small and perpetually underweight (I was 100 lbs at the age of 14 in grade 9).

This fear of needles mixed with the fear of being turned away from being able to donate was very much present today. Luckily enough, I’ve grown significantly since I was in the ninth grade, and was able to donate without any problems. That took care of one of my fears. The other was the needle. See, in my mind, I was worried that they’d miss my vein and have to keep poking my arm until they got it in, leaving me with multiple holes that bled freely, or that I’d sneeze, the force of which would send out too much blood and I’d pass out and die. As you can tell, I tend to over think things way too much.

IMG_20140708_174309.jpg

But then I met the lady who would be taking my blood, and if it wasn’t for her, this irrational fear wouldn’t have gone away. Her name was Monique, and she was just so kind and calm. She talked me through the entire process of blood donation, from how they would take my blood, and at the hospital, would then decide to use it as a whole, or separate the blood from the platelets and plasma to use independently from one another. She even told me somthing that I never knew before, which was that most people who donate blood are also registed bone marrow donors, as it’s the marrow that helps in the production of the blood and the anti-bodies in the blood that helps to fight off infections and diseases.

She then told me a story of how she was working as an nurse in an emergency room, and this one kid who was only 20 years old at the time, came in with nearly total blood loss. He had been at a party, and another person swung a knife backwards, which had pierced through the skin and severed the femoral artery, one of the major arteries in your entire body. They were unable to place a tourniquet on it, so they had one nurse place her entire body pressure on the kid to prevent further blood loss. When he arrived, they gave him 40 units of blood immediately (O negative, the universal giver) before they could find out what his type was and give him more of that, and as they were about to operate on him, they lost him. They did this three times, and three times he flatlined. Finally, they were able to stablize him, and two weeks later, he walked out of the hospital with his father after thanking the staff that had saved his life profusely.

If it hadn’t been for the people who had donated, he would not have survived even the ride in the ambulance. It’s because we are able to give blood ever two months, with next to no adverse affects to us, that we can indirectly save lives of those who need it. It’s such a simple process, and the benefits completely outweigh the nearly non-existant cons.

They weren’t kidding when they created the slogan, “Blood. It’s in you to give,” because it really is. So, if you are able to, find out when the donor clinic will be in your town next, and please, donate. Who knows, maybe your blood will help save someone else.

Google I/O 2014 (My thoughts on one of the biggest tech events of the year)

This is a fairly long blog post, so if you're stretched for time, you can read the TL;DR version here.


Every year, most of the larger software companies hold their keynote conference where they show off the latest and greatest products and features they have in the pipeline. This year was no different. Microsoft had their //build/ conference, and Apple’s WWDC, both aimed at their developer audience. Today was Google’s turn, and frankly, it blew both Microsoft and Apple’s right out of the water by introducing three new product categories, Wear, Auto, and TV, of which Microsoft has never entered, and Apple has been rumoured to enter for years, but hasn’t. Let’s start from the beginning.


DESIGN

First, Google announced their new Android program aimed at connecting the next five billion people on the planet to modern smartphones. They called this, Android One.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

It looks as if it was inspired by Motorola’s new line of Moto devices (X, G, & E), in that you’re getting great hardware that’s modern and future-proofed, for an unbeatably price, and the Nexus program, in which Android One phones run pure, stock Android. They’re made specifically in mind for these countries, running 4.5" screens, dual-sims, and FM radio — all features important for those users. As Sundar Pichai said, this platform is “high quality, low-cost” smartphones with widely available parts.” For devices that are going to priced at around $100, and under, they’ll make for excellent alternatives to those who want more than just Windows Mobile/Phone, BlackBerry, and the plague that is Samsung’s never ending torrent of plastic.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

Next up was the Developer Preview of Android L, which if going by the previous named releases for Android, has yet to be fully named. Lychee, Lollipop, Lemon Meringue? Who knows. What we do know, however, is that it’s the biggest, and most important release of Android to date. It’s Android, re-thought and redesigned from the ground up, and it looks beautiful. We first saw an example of this in the recent UI update to the Google+ app. It’s cleaner, using a mix of squared boxes, round buttons, and bright, playful colours. It’s not as dark as the Holo design language that first appeared on Android 4.0 ICS, but not as translucent and empty feeling as iOS either. It’s a really nice, pleasant feeling inbetween, even making generally cluttered looks apps like Gmail look much cleaner.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

It gets better. Remember how good, and how near-perfect the Android notification system was? Google made it better. The lockscreen and notification shade are now basically one in the same, letting you see all of your notifications in one place. If you’re inside of a movie or game, you get a heads-up, enhanced notification that you can view, and then dismiss or click to enter the app it’s from. I’m just glad it’s not a chat-heads me-too clone, as it actually looks far more functional and useful, not taking up tons of screen real-estate for prolonged periods of time. And, this is all compatible with Android Wear. If you swipe away/dismiss a notification on either your Android phone or Android Wear device, it disappears from the other as well. The sync is just a beautiful feature.

They went a step further, and improved Google Search. So now when you search for something, you can tap the information card, and then once again to right into the corresponding app on your phone. We already have this, but right now you have to set your defaults, adding an extra step initially. Maybe this will make things a tad more efficient.

And finally, for Android L, is Project Volta. Much like Project Butter and Project Svelte before it, Volta is it’s own dedicated attempt at making one singular aspect of Android infinitely better. In this case, it’s the battery.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

It includes a battery saver, similar to what we’ve seen in the Galaxy S5 and the One M8, as well as a Battery Historian, which not only lets you get a more in-depth look at what exactly is draining your battery, but also wakelocks as well, which any Nexus owner will tell you is the bane of their existence. Along side this, Android will now get security updates pushed through Google Play, rather than an entire system update. This goes along with Google releasing the rest of their apps to the Play Store, and ART finally replacing Dalvik (as well as being 64-bit compatible) as the exclusive run-time, means that we’ll get faster, better, and far more secure devices in the long run.

The best part about all of this is that the new design language, Material Design, scales across phones, tablets, and now Chrome (and Chrome OS as well), meaning that instead of Chrome OS and Android feeling like extremely distant cousins, they now feel like close siblings. The continuity between these two is very similar to what we saw in the OS X Yosemite demo at WWDC ‘14, but it’s still a really nice addition.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

This in relation to Chrome OS now being able to run Android apps, it’s a beautiful thing, giving it a sense of continuity if you will. Android L is just chalk full of new animations, eye-candy, and general polish.


WEAR

During the presentation, we saw many of the speakers with big watches on, some circular, some square-ish. These were the first Android Wear devices being worn out into the wild, and they were impressive. Android Wear is basically Google Now on your wrist, and that’s an amazing thing. It shows you notifications from all your apps, music, directions, and more, all in one convenient place, and it looks beautiful, following the Material Design language first seen in Android L.

You can even order a pizza from the device in less than 20 seconds. It’s impressive. Credit/Source: The Verge

You can even order a pizza from the device in less than 20 seconds. It’s impressive.
Credit/Source: The Verge

Right now, there are three OEMs — LG, Samsung, and Motorola. Both LG and Samsung took the square face route, with Samsung basically optimizing their Gear Neo to work with Android Wear. It’s definitely better though, since it means it opens up more phones that aren’t just Samsung devices to wearables. I just hope that they can’t run any of their awful, custom skins, on top of it, leaving it pristine. The last is the Motorola 360, which is the first device to sport a round face. It just looks gorgeous, and the crowd seemed to be the most excited for this device as opposed to LG and Samsung’s offerings. While I/O attendees get either the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live, they also get a second Android Wear device in the form of the Moto 360, when that becomes available. I would say that I’m jealous, but it’s hard to feel excited about the boring, square boxes offered by Samsung & LG when Motorola has produced an absolute beautiful work of art in the Moto 360. Oh, and all Android Wear devices are water resistant, which is a real nice touch that makes so much sense.


AUTO

This one’s huge. It’s Android, well, Google Now, inside of your car. On the screen, you can control navigation, phone, and music, with more to come.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

And it’s completely voice controlled, meaning you can ask your car what time a restaurant is open until, and then ask for directions, all seamlessly. It will also read out your messages to you, to help prevent dangerous texting and driving, letting you keep your focus on the road. Right now, they have 44 partners signed up, and the first Android Auto cars will be out by 2015. I’m really interested in seeing what people will make of this.


TV

The third and final product category is the one that I’m most confused about. Android TV. It’s the refresh to the abysmal failure that was Google TV, but I’m not so sure that I can tell the difference. Like Google TV, Android TV is baked right into the the screen. You use your phone’s screen as a remote to scroll through your apps, shows, and games, as well as featured Google Play content. Android TV also follows the design language first seen in Android L, so it certainly looks pretty, but we’ve seen this, and frankly, I’m getting PTSD flashbacks to the horror that was the Nexus Q.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

The weird part about all of this is that it supports Googlecast, so it basically functions like a Chromecast, and this is where I don’t know what to make of it. Personally, when it Android TV was first leaked back in April by The Verge, I thought it would be pushed either as a software update to the Chromecast itself, or be bundled with the Chromecast 2. That, to me, would make far more sense, but instead we still have the Chromecast, and now Android TV. Rather than feeling like a product family, they feel like competing products — the antithesis to Chrome and Android now.


WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

So, what does all of this mean? Well, it basically means that Google is trying to be everywhere you need it to be, with your phone at the centre of it all. Think about it. Google Now is at the core of Mobile, Wear, Auto, and TV. It can do everything that Siri and Cortana can, and then some. It’s Google trying to take over both technology & media, while making sure they’re doing it in as beautiful a way as possible. Since Matias Duarte joined Googled before the release of Android 4.0 ICS in 2011, we knew that Google wanted to distance themselves from their ugly past. Literally.

Credit/Source: The Verge

Credit/Source: The Verge

From Android 4.0 to 4.4 KitKat, we’ve seen their vision slowly grow, and Android L, whether it’s 4.5 or 5.0, is the first time we’ve seen what it has always meant to be — unified and beautiful across devices without any compromise to functionality.


I think what I most appreciated about this year’s I/O keynote was the fact that unlike Apple’s direct jabs at Android at WWDC ‘14, Google chose a much more subtle route.

“Custom keyboards, widgets: those things happened in Android four to five years ago.”

That’s what Sundar Pichai said on-stage in regards to Google wanting to build a more open platform that extends out to other aspects of your life, from Auto, to Wearables, to your living room. It’s as if Google wanted to say that yeah, widgets and customization are all a part of the Android experience, but that’s not everything — it’s more than that. While they did spend time talking about the aesthetics of Android, they didn’t dwell on it too long. Instead, each keynote speaker briefly touched upon it before moving onto how it makes using the app a better experience, and how that leads to using their various products from Android, to Chrome OS, a much better, more seamless experience as a whole. It’s just an interesting comparison to see where priorities lie between companies.

Google also took a page straight out of Apple’s book, by announcing the Developer Preview of Android three months ahead of the actual release in the Fall, a first since they’ve usually announced and released at the same time. Hopefully this means that Google is listening to the community with a closer ear now, so that many of the bugs get ironed out before the release of Android L to prevent back to back system updates within two weeks of each other.

There’s no doubt that this is the single biggest, and single most important release in the history of Android. With over 5,000 new APIs, a total re-thought redesign of the UI, and the extension into new fields with your phone at the centre of it all, Google made me feel excited again about the future of Android today, and that’s probably the best reaction they were hoping for — a re-energized community.

Why We Love Origin Stories

“Why is ever superhero movie an origin story?” That is the most common complaint I hear whenever I talk to my friends about superhero films, and recently, has been a question that I’ve been pondering myself.

The question of origins is a fascinating one, and holds a universal and undying appeal. Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here? Because as humans we are naturally inquisitive and curious, we keep asking ourselves these questions, often times without any real answer. So, what is the solution we came up with? We make stuff up. The way humankind has answered this question of our origins has often been through the analogy of individual origins. The universe, (uni-verse, meaning one poem) is an individual, only bigger. We imagine stories of great beings creating the universe, fighting for our very souls. That is how mythologies, and superheroes are born, through us wanting to not only understand ourselves, but as a need to better ourselves.

We love origin stories for that very reason, because it shows us the very moment wherein our favourite characters go from being just-like-us, to being better, faster, & stronger. After all, that was the original idea behind Superman, to be the man of tomorrow — a source of endless inspiration. However, whenever we want to set up a new universe for an already established character, we invariably have to go through the steps of how they got to where they are. It’s always the same formula, one of three steps, with one or two minor tweaks to the original story. And despite this, and the numerous times we’ve read and viewed the same origin story, despite know what’s going to happen within a certain degree of accuracy, we still seek that familiar comfort.

Take, for example Superman: Red Son, wherein Supes doesn’t crash land in a Kansas field to be taken into the home of the most enlightened farmers ever created, but instead due to pure chance, in the collective farmland of Ukraine. Rather than fighting for, “truth, justice, and the American way,” Superman becomes the, “Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin.” It’s a small change, but the series had to establish the origin of the now Soviet Superman, as that would impact the rest of the character’s life in that altered universe.

The three steps, as mentioned before, are Chance, Trauma, and Destiny.

The most well-known example of chance is Spider-Man, in which Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive/genetically engineered spider that grants him super powers. Chance shows us how random, adverse events that can happen to any one of us, not just superheroes, such as getting involved in a near-death experience, can cause many of us to take stock of our lives and choose a different path.

The second is trauma, a trope which lies at the heart of Batman’s story. Bruce Wayne dedicates himself to fighting crime after seeing his parents murdered. While he took the most extreme route in terms of dressing up and going after the criminals one-on-one, again, us non-heroes have plenty of examples in which people have gone through stress-induced growth, resolving to help others, such as become social activists.

Lastly, is the idea of destiny. This is where a characters, such as Neo from The Matrix, or Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, realizes that they are The Chosen One as outlined by some prophecy or other story-telling tool. Often, the characters are reluctant to accept this fate of theirs, but in the end dive into it, assuming a great deal of responsibility that compels them to grow at a faster rate than they want to.

So, why is it that we like origin stories so much? I think it’s because at the end of the day, we identify with one or all of these life-altering forces in some way or another. At some point in our lives, we have all had to, or will have to, assume a great deal of responsilibity, more than we’d like, because of chance, trauma, or, if you buy into the idea, fate. The origin stories, at their core, provide us with a source of inspiration and ways to cope with adversity. They provide us with comfort, because we can identify with what the characters feel and think, as they are a projection of what we wish to be, and what we wish to do. They allow us to find meaning in loss, and let us discover our strengths, so that we too may better the world. We like origin stories because they allow us to tap into one of our own powers; empathy.

My Thoughts on Amazon's FirePhone

I tuned in late to Amazon's announcement of their first phone, the Fire Phone and from my first, preliminary look, it seems interesting. It has a dedicated camera button, something more phones should have, and free, unlimited, cloud storage. That's absolutely bonkers. It also comes with this tilt/gyroscopic/dynamic perspective, that's basically iOS' parallax effect on steroids. It uses four front facing cameras to detect motion of the phone, and of your head as well, to make the effect of peeking around the corner all that more immersive. However, those two features pale in comparison to the absolute coolest feature; Firefly. It's a service, similar to Google Goggles, SoundHound, Shazam, etc, that detects anything and everything around you, and then let's you buy it. On Amazon of course.

That's where the cool ends, and the not-so-cool begins. Because Amazon opted to run their forked version of Android, Fire OS, there is no access to Google Play, or even apps like Instagram, or even the official Gmail.  While they may be coming soon, the fact that they're currently not there will most likely be a huge deterrent to most buyers. The second aspect that I'm not a fan of is the overwrought UI of the device. It's too glossy, too blocky, and just too much. Having gotten used to the simple minimalism of both Android 4.4.x and iOS 7, the UI of the Fire Phone feels like a step backwards into the dark days of Androig 2.3.x Gingerbread and iOS 1-6. It definitely shows a lot of promise though, so I'm hoping Amazon can clean it up by the time it gets into the hands of the users.

Now, because it's an Amazon device, running a forked version of Android, this will be a huge incentive for everyone who wants to use Android, but doesn't want to be tied down to Google. For those already invested in Amazon's ecosystem, the Fire Phone will be the key device in connecting you to and unifying your experience across all their services, from Kindle, to Fire TV, Amazon Music, and Amazon itself. They've done what Google hasn't been able to with Android & Chrome; create a single, unified experience. Because of this deep integration, I wonder if this will be enough to sway even the most diehard of Windows Phone and BlackBerry fans away from their tiny, non-app, ecosystems.

However, despite already having the pre-order site up and running, you're basically dropping $650 for a decidedly mid-tier spec'd phone that's locked to AT&T, and you'd have to wait at least a month before you'd actually get the phone in your hands. Even if you got it directly from AT&T, you're still dropping $200, which frankly is just too much for a phone in its first generation, with no guarantee of a second version. Remember when Facebook wanted to be the centre of your entire universe, and made two phones with HTC, the ChaCha, and the First? Remember how well they did? I'm not faulting Amazon for wanting to take that risk, but they most likely would've had a better shot as just packaging all of the features built into the phone as an app. Or, better yet, revamp the Amazon app itself and update it to modern UI guidelines, and bake Firefly into it, as that seems to be the main feature of this phone as it is.

TL;DR: Amazon made a phone when they could've just made a single app, and wants you to buy stuff with it.

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation; redundant, and a headache for everyone

Canada's Federal government passed an Anti-Spam legislation that will go into effect on July 1, 2014. While it may sound great at first, it's really not. If anything, it's a redundant headache for everyone; legislation for the sake of legislation. 

The gist of it is that companies that using email to promote their products and services have to now get express consent from everyone they send out email to, or IM, SMS, or call. However, think about it for a second. If you are already on the emailing list for a particular company, chances are you like what they do/sell, and signed up on your own accord to stay up to date. That's pretty much the exact same thing, no it is the exact same thing as this nonsense piece of legislation. 

Retailers that acquire their emails at the cashier checkout also ask for their customer's consent. It's not as if they are placing a gun to their head, forcing them to hand over their work or personal email addresses. Instead of making the process easier, cashiers now have to ask for the email, ask the customer to read the consent statement, type in the email, and then accept, making an already painfully slow process even slower. The only impact that this will have is far fewer people signing themselves up because it will be easier and quicker to say no than to agree and have to go through that million step process for something that should be incredibly simple. 

The end user has the power to already grant consent and take it away, by giving their email or phone number to whomever they choose, or by simply unsubscribing or not handing over that information. 

If the federal government wanted to pass an effective anti-spam legislation, they should have targeted the ISPs. Before iOS 7 was released, my dad had no way of blocking the spam phone numbers that would call him, and I'm not joking with this number, 17 times a day. I had contacted Rogers, and they wanted to charge him $20/month to block only three phone numbers. The best part is that his cell phone number, the one that was plagued by spam calls, isn't listed anywhere. So, rather than placing the onus on the end user that's constantly under attack, why not make it so that the ISPs have to stop giving out their customers phone numbers to the highest bidder? Why not make it so that the ISPs have to provide a flat rate service in which the customer can block as many calls as s/he wants? Why not make it so that every phone has to have a call blocking feature enabled? Why not do a million other things that would actually benefit users and businesses, rather than making it harder?

Crazy Town II: Electric Boogaloo (the dumbing down of Canadian politics)

Just under one month ago, I wrote about how Toronto, the city that I call home (even though I live just north of it in the suburbs of Newmarket) has completely lost it’s mind. I talked about how Rob Ford halted his mayoral re-election campaign, and how I had no idea who to vote for in the upcoming provincial election. However, over the last 22 days, I’ve had some time to reflect on something that has been particularly troubling to me.

When I lived in Etobicoke for 16 years, I knew who the candidates were, and more or less what they stood for in their platforms. They would hold rallies, do door-to-door canvassing with their constituent volunteers, and were annoying enough to call my house when I was trying to have a peaceful dinner with my family. Sure, they only really showed their faces whenever their jobs were on the line, but at least they put in the bare minimum requirement for me to say, “Okay, sure, yeah you can have my vote.”

However, that all changed when I moved up to Newmarket. Most people think that it’s incredibly far away, and if you use Toronto as a starting point, it’s no farther away than Pickering. Frankly, it actually feels closer, but that’s besides the point. In Newmarket, all the candidates have done are put up signs telling people to vote for them, so that they can either keep their job, or be hired for the first time. The problem here is that all I can see is a see of red and blue, with some orange and keep here and there, but the names don’t stand out to me. The candidates have yet to even do the bare minimum to get my vote. They haven’t held rallies, haven’t canvassed door-to-door with their constituent volunteers, and I thought I’d never say this, but I miss their annoying dinnertime phone calls to tell me about their platform and why I should vote for them. It’s a problem so much so that I had to search for the names. Yes, when it comes to politics, I should be involved and do my own research supplementary to what the people who want to be elected are telling me, but when the candidates aren’t even doing that much, I take issue with that.

If the candidates aren’t willing to put in any effort now, then chances are they won’t put in any effort when in office.

Gone are the days of inspiring, if polarizing, leaders like Tommy Douglas, Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Chrétien, and now are the days of hapless fecks like Tim Hudak, Justin Trudeau, and Andrea Horwath.

But that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem that we face as a province, and country as whole, is that we have lackluster, non-charismatic politicians that pander to every possible audience just to get votes, saying one thing to one group and something contradictory to another. It’s become our culture to sigh, and say, “well at least my candidate isn’t nearly as bad as your candidate is,” or that, “s/he’s the lesser of the evils we have to pick from.” Why, and how, has that become the state of Canadian politics? How is it that the only time a politician places ads on TV it’s to attack their opponant in the race to re-election? How is it that we can even consider electing someone who’s math is so horrible, he thinks that cutting 100,000 jobs will create one million.

How?

I’ll tell you how. It’s because we’ve dumbed down politics to historic lows. Think about this for a second. John Tory, the former Conservative heavyweight, is running against Olivia Chow (who’s only claim to fame, much like Justin Trudeau’s, is that she’s a family member, in her case a widow, or a famous federal level politician). The man running his campaign is the person that helped Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, get elected using the simple slogan of wanting to “Stop The Gravy Train.” It’s simple, but in actuality, it meant nothing, except for playing into the hearts of those who were tired of David Miller’s antics as Mayor. The same thing happened when the Conservatives beat out the Liberals in the 2006 federal election, by using the sponsorship scandal to sow the seeds of doubt into even the most ardent of liberals.

Politics has become a game of who can seem like they’re the most relatable to the “common folk.” Look at Rob Ford’s campaign. It was all about getting the vote of those who have always voted for conservative values, for the “simple minded, non-elitist” group of people out there. The issue with that is that yes, politicians should be relatable, and we should be able to take comfort in the fact that they too are humans and not heartless killbots, but we should also hold them to a higher standard. Gone are the days of inspiring, if polarizing, leaders like Tommy DouglasPierre Trudeau, and Jean Chrétien, and now are the days of hapless fecks like Tim HudakJustin Trudeau, and Andrea Horwath. Gone are the days when you actually votefor someone, rather than against someone else.

We should hold these politicians, and the leaders of our cities, provinces, and country, to a higher standard, and they should too as well. They should inspire us to reach ever higher, rather than being brought down to the lowest denominator. They should make us want to vote for them, by having platforms based on real issues, not attack ads and the ever present issue of cutting taxes. We should have politicians who aren’t afraid of doing things that will end their political careers, as long as it means helping the public at large for generations to come.

But we don’t, instead we have a system of having to choose the lesser of the evils with incredibly weak platforms. We have a system we pander to every possible audience, watering down any and all effective change for a few votes, and to me, that’s an incredibly sad state to be in.

I don’t know. I’m probably being overly hopeful, overly optimistic, but what I do know is that we need a change of politicians who talk less and act more.

My Thoughts on Apple's WWDC14 Keynote Presenation

-Tim Cook just burned Microsoft using a goddamn pie chart.

-OS X 420 is amazing, but my vote still goes to OS X Oxnard.
-That dark mode for OS X Yosemite is just gorgeous. Looks like they took some design cues from +elementary OS.

-Craig Federighi's entire presentation is like the world's longest dad joke, and I love it. 
-I'm liking OS X 10.10 way more than I thought I would. It puts Windows 8.1 to shame. They even did the universal search better!
-Holy fuck. The mirroring of SMS & Phone calls across Macs, iPads, and iPhones, is just bonkers. Wait, no, the SMS/Phone mirroring is basically just what MightyText/DeskSMS already do on Android but...native. It's essentially Bluetooth.
-iOS 8's Spotlight & Quicktype features. Totally revolutionary when they were introduced years ago...on Android.
-iMessage is going after Snapchat, WhatsApp, Line, Kik, Viber, etc, with new voice, video, and picture messages (but no stickers).
-iOS8's new iCloud/Photo editing suite is basically Google's Auto Awesome/Android's basic gallery editor that's been around forever. 
-Cool. Third party keyboards and notification shade widgets in iOS 8. More stuff from Android circa 2010. Yawn.
-iOS 8 is wholly uninteresting to me without an API for Siri, & a homescreen refresh, as seen in this concept image.

ios8_912_1.jpg

-The only thing about the iPhone that I'm remotely jealous of is that fingerprint scanner, but then again, I don't need it.
-For someone like me, a live demo of someone coding is similar to a magician on stage casting spells.

DSC_1552.jpg


-No, "Oh, and one more thing," moment this year. Looks like there's no iWatch, new iPhone, or MacBook Air with Retina Display this year. Apple's still playing catchup it seems. 

Why Apple Buying Beats Makes Sense

It looks like there rumor of Apple purchasing Beats that was floating around yesterday was confirmed by Tyrese Gibson and Dre himself in an expletive laden video posted to Facebook. I'm slightly worried because that totally worked out for HTC during their partnership. Buying Beats to get into music is like if Apple bought Starbucks to get into coffee: low quality product with an insanely high profit margin based purely on the popularity of the brand name.

It seems that whoever buys out or partners with Beats is doomed to fail almost immediately. AT&T, HP, HTC, and next, Apple, verifying the unpopular opinion that they are indeed in a rapid downward spiral, and while I dislike Beats for the simple reason of it not being high-quality audio for it's absurd price-point, I can see why Apple would want to buy them for a few reasons.

The first being that there Beats logo and flat wire headphones have replaced Apple's white earbuds as a sort of status symbol. No longer is it just enough to have an iPhone. You need to have an iPhone AND Beats. Think about it. Apple is all about image. Beats is all about image. People who buy either product are all about image. From a business standpoint, and financial, it makes perfect sense for Apple to acquire Beats, even if the product that they are buying doesn't make sense for a consumer to own, especially when compared to similar products from competitors that are significantly better for audiophiles, and at a much cheaper and affordable price point. Then again, Apple has never focused on affordable price points, so regardless, this is a perfect move for Apple that makes sense.

Secondly, iTunes Match and iTunes Radio, much like their predecessor, iTunes Ping, have been considered radical disappointments in the music streaming industry. Whatever is it, Apple can't seem to build their own music service to match, let alone compete, with the likes of Pandora, Rdio, and Spotify. Having Beats and Beats Music onboard would certainly help, especially if they were to merge it directly into iTunes. Trying to find new music on iTunes is an awful experience, something that Spotify excels at. The other big problem is that with Apple, your music is more or less locked in, with no way or transferring it to other platforms. Spotify alleviates that, by letting you switch from iOS to Android and back, because it's all in the cloud. If Apple were to release a version of iTunes for Android like it did Windows, with Beats Music baked in to help you discover new music, I think Spotify, and similar competitors, would have serious reason to worry.

The final reason is that the iPod and Apple's entrance into music is what saved them from total failure the last time. It makes sense that Apple would want to take the lessons they learned then and re-apply them now, to keep up with the ever changing demands of the music industry. People want options, and I think Apple is finally about to give them a viable one.


EDIT: The Apple/Beats acquisition has been confirmed today (May 28, 2014). Read more here.

Crazy Town (how Ontario has completely lost its mind)

My home province of Ontario, has completely lost its mind over the last 48 hours. Let’s break it down, shall we?

The mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, Rob Ford, in the midst of his re-election campaign was once again filmed smoking what looks to either be marijuana or crack cocaine. Finally, he admitted to having a substance abuse problem and put a stop to both his re-election campaign and what little was left of his mayoral duties. While I am glad that he is seeking help, all I am left with is praying to all that is holy that Giorgio Mammoliti does not decide to run for Mayor, as he is basically Rob Ford Lite. And this is a direct comparison to a man who has been publicly intoxicatedmade lewd remarks about several womenthreatened his staff, and has driven drunk, and still has yet to be charged with anything by the police.

Crazier still is that Robyn Doolittle, the person who arguably has controlled the entire story behind Rob Ford since first breaking the news of him smoking crack cocaine in May 2013, left the Toronto Star and joined the Globe & Mail, taking with her, the Rob Ford story. This led to the her new home purchasing stills from that new video of Ford clearly smoking something for around $10,000…from known drug dealers. What makes this even more hilarious? The Toronto Star having to print a screenshot of the Gawker website to avoid the Globe & Mail watermarks.

And that brings us to today, where the NDP government, headed by Andrea Horwath, rejected the proposed Liberal budget. What baffles me about this is that Kathleen Wynne’s proposed budget for 2014 was designed in such a way that Horwath would have nothing negative to say against it, as it was very much an NDP budget. Yet, Horwath, decided to vote it down, propelling Ontario towards a June election, did not have much to say against the budget, but rather pointed towards the scandals that Wynne inherited from her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, as the main talking points against Wynne.

So now we have a scandal plagued minority Liberal Premier, an NDP leader with no clear plan who’s blasting the Liberals for having a plan, and a PC leader, Hudak, who barely has support from within his own party and says absolutely crazy things on a regular basis (while wanting to cut 100,000 civil worker jobs including firefighters, EMS, meat inspectors, and sustainable energy initiatives, to create one million jobs over eight years. The math speaks for itself). While Wynne may not be perfect, she’s by far the lesser of the three evils. She assumed power a little over a year ago, and to claim that her provincial government is the worst in Ontario’s history is egregious at best. Let’s not forget Mike Harris and his PCs who killed off the Eglington West Subway in 1995, spending $40 million to fill in the already dug out tunnels, and killing close to 35,000 jobs.

What’s scares me the most is that for the first time since I became eligible to vote, I don’t know who the best choice is. I know the lesser of the evils, but is that really the best that we as a nation can produce; a collection of politicians with no human connection — who simply pander to accumulate votes? With both provincial and municipal level elections in 2014, what happens next in Ontario is going to be extremely interesting to watch.

Searching for Jobs (and the problem with the current education system)

Ever since I graduated from university a year ago, with my degree in Environmental Studies, or more specifically, Environmental Politics, I’ve been stuck in a routine of wake-up, go to my part-time retail job, come home, apply for jobs (if I have the energy), and sleep. What scares me the most, however, isn’t the fact that it’s been a year and I really have nothing to show for it, but rather the toll that it’s starting to take on my psyche. While normally I’m a fairly happy and mellow person, I’ve been finding that the more I talk to my friends the more I say things along the lines of, “searching for decent paying, non-retail jobs has to be the single most demoralizing activity in the world.”

When we were growing up, we were an extremely privileged generation riding along the coattails of the greatest economic boom in recorded history, and to an extent, we still are. We were told that specialization was no longer the key, that we needed to be more rounded out, so we took up soccer and tennis and swimming and volunteered, because without that cultural grounding, we’d be laughed out of the job we wanted and would have to apply elsewhere — somewhere second rate. The problem with this is two-fold. First, we’ve burnt ourselves out doing everything we can to create a mile-long resume that says nothing of who we are as people, and secondly, the first rate positions are no longer hiring and the second rate companies have gone bankrupt.

It’s easy to point fingers, blame others for being accepted because the fit the role of being ethnically diverse, but that’s not it at all. The problem lies within our education system. The cost of getting a formal education in Canada is about $27,500 for a four year program (and is slowly rising), which pales in comparison to America, which ranges anywhere from $27,000 to $60,000 per year. It makes obtaining a formal education a seemingly unreachable goal financially. f every student could, I’m sure that they’d declare bankruptcy if it would allow them to wipe their debt away and start fresh.

“A bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma.” — NY Times

We’re an incredibly capable generation of students, eager to learn and studying everything from English to Psychology, partly because we can, and partly because we wanted to be well-rounded heirs to the economic throne. Maybe it’s the over-abundance of choice that prevents us from being able to settle into any one field, for the fear of feeling stuck in something you don’t like, or maybe it’s the fact that while we live in the 21st century, our educational system is stuck, preparing us for the century past. Rather than giving us the tools to be successful in the age of the internet, universities are more concerned with their profit and rankings amongst each other, making it ever harder to find even the most basic of entry-level positions in 2014.

I’ve spent much of the last year searching for jobs, applying for just about any position that’s open, and I’ve had a few callbacks, but nothing successful. They all require a one year commitment with no guaranteed hours or pay, nor a guarantee that they’ll keep you on past the one-year contract, all as an entry level casual worker/intern. Perhaps it’s my approach and mindset to this that’s preventing me from finding that a semi-decent paying, non-retail position job I so badly want, or perhaps it’s not know where exactly my heart lies. Whatever it is, I’m beginning to feel demoralized, and I’m not exactly sure when that will change for the better, but I hope it’s soon.

Samsung Has a Design Team? Who Knew!

Is anyone else bothered with Samsung launching a website based around "meaningful design?" I mean, they're the last company that should be talking about anything design related. 


As a company, Samsung continues to use multiple design aesthetics in its flagship devices, poor quality hardware, yet struts around as if it knows anything about meaningful design. The worst part is that this is in relation to their current lawsuit against Apple, in a feeble attempt to prove they did not copy core aesthetics from the iPhone.

If Samsung put half as much effort into their designs as they do their marketing, then I would be okay with the site. If the site was launched at any other point than now, I'd be okay with it. The thing is though that Samsung has always been a reactionary company, aping many aesthetics from other OEMs, creating their own Frankenstein's Monster of design choices.

This is the settings menu on the Samsung Galaxy S5. It's a six-screen, vertical scrolling clusterfuck of a nightmare with 60-something options to choose from.

This is the settings menu on the Samsung Galaxy S5. It's a six-screen, vertical scrolling clusterfuck of a nightmare with 60-something options to choose from.

What I personally find funny is that the site is a textbook example of Samsung's design philosophy: messy and incoherent. If the company was truly honest, then design.samsung.com should return a 404.

The Problems of Social Media

A few days ago, a 14 year old Dutch girl identified only as “Sarah” sent out a tweet to American Airlines.

“hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye,” — @bizzledemetriax

The internet caught wind of this latest round of online idiocy, and it spread like wild-fire. Within a matter of time, that tweet garnered over 2000 retweets, even a response from American Airlines, saying that they had reported her tweet and IP address to the authorities. This spurned a serious of replies from “Sarah” back at American Airlines, saying she was joking, sorry, and that she was so scared.

Yesterday, she was arrested by Rotterdam authorities, with an investigation pending.

This leads us to today, where now dozens upon dozens of teenagers are following in “Sarah’s” footsteps by tweeting more bomb-threats at American Airlines (likely in retaliation for arresting the Dutch teen), and bizarrely, Southwest Airlines — a completely unrelated airline.

While Sarah may have just been spouting off the idiotic thoughts that came to her head, like many teenagers before her, the fact of the matter is that she did so on a public, nay, international, platform. She many have genuinely not known that she would cause trouble, and that an airline as big as American, would take it seriously, because y’know, bomb threats. When the lives of their passengers are at stake, the airline has to do everything in their power to prevent anything from happening, even if the threat turns out to be fake. Her copycats, however, know exactly what they are doing, and I hope that they too realize soon how unfunny it all really is.

Social media is amazing. It lets me connect and contact some of my favourite people I otherwise would have absolutely no access to, and have conversations with them. It allows disgruntled people to voice their opinions about companies, letting their public voice enact some sort of positive change. It lets me, sitting at home, get real-time updates about the situations going on all over the world. It lets important people reach out to the masses to talk about things that matter to them; to spur conversation in an effort to help better the world. The downside is that it lets everyone think that what they have to say is important, even if 99% of the time it’s just verbal diarrhoea turned into digital text.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that it creates a sort of disconnect, in that people do not associate their online persona’s with their real-life selves. They think that just because they hide behind an online handle, they can get away with anything, because the online world is different from that of the real world, and that doing something online cannot have consequences offline. That is entirely untrue, as seen in the case with “Sarah”, and something that more people need to realize.

And that’s the issue with having everything instant — there’s no longer any time to sit and think about what you want to say. You see something, react, and post said reaction, and then move onto the next thing. We’ve become addicted to this, and go crazy inside until we get it out of our system in a way that the whole world can know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and think that it’s a great tool when used properly, but when idiots get a hold of it and use it to spew their idiocies across the web for the rest of us, it ruins it for the rest of us.

Perhaps arresting “Sarah” was the right thing to do. She’s no longer a child, but is not quite yet an adult either, but she also needs to learn a lesson, and be used as an example of what not to do.

People like to say that this newest generation is going downhill, and there are many instances where I’d normally like to disagree, but in this case, I simply cannot. I’m frankly quite scared for when these maladjusted teens grow up and have to face the real world with real consequences.