23 November 2015

Pencil versus finger

What you can and cannot do eith an Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro

I think one of the smartest things Apple did with the pencil is to distinguish use of the pencil from using fingers.

21 November 2015

Exclusive Potter

Gruber wrote:

I’m intrigued about the strategic implications of an exclusive like this. But as a book reader, somehow it feels wrong for books to be “exclusive” to a proprietary software platform.

But while this edition of the books are exclusive to iBooks, the books themselves are available on many platforms. And available unencumbered by copy protection.

20 November 2015

Armor makes you harder to hit

You find this argument regarding role-playing games about whether armor should absorb damage or make you harder to hit. (GURPS tried to make it do both, but I believe they gave up on that in 4/e.) It is a silly argument because tabletop RPG mechanics can’t be complicated enough to really simulate the difference.

But forgetting that and just considering the question...I’m going to think-out-loud on a topic I am far from an expert on.

Armor does absorb damage. But because it does, it would be foolish to aim a blow at the armor. As anyone can quickly discover. So, one instead attacks the gaps in an opponent’s armor. Which is what the period fighting treatises advise. So, the upshot is that—in practice—armor makes you harder to hit rather than absorbing lots of damage.

Well...no doubt there are exceptions. Some weapons are designed to minimize the effect of certain armor. Even then, attacking a gap will usually be more effective. So, I think this is indeed the exception rather than the rule.

19 November 2015

New Star Trek series on CBS All Access

About the new Star Trek series CBS announced...

Now, only making it available via their (apparently lousy) subscription (with commercials) streaming service is certainly not setting it up for success.

But it premiers January 2017.

What are the chances that CBS All Access still exists in January 2017?

18 November 2015

iPad Pro review on Wired.co.uk

I haven’t read many iPad Pro reviews. I guess because I knew I was going to buy one and make up my own mind about it. But then I came across the “review in comic form” that led me to this review on Wired.co.uk.

Because no, the iPad Pro is not a laptop. If you largely work with words, via a complex content management system, and enjoy your laptop already—as is true for most journalists who have reviewed the thing, not coincidentally—then it might not be for you.

If you’re interested in the iPad Pro at all, I think the whole review is worth reading.

For me, the iPad has effectively been a laptop replacement because I’ve always preferred a tablet to a laptop. (I just never found a tablet that was good enough before the iPad.) Before the iPad, I simply went without a laptop.

But whether the iPad is a laptop replacement or not is a minor issue at best. While an iPad doesn’t have a keyboard and mouse/trackpad, it does have a touchscreen. It will never be as good at the things keyboards and mouses/trackpads do well are as they are. But likewise, there are things a touchscreen does well that a keyboard and mouse/trackpad never will do as well.

For music and graphics—to name just two creative endevours, a touchscreen can be better than a keyboard and mouse/trackpad.

And while writing is more the domain of the keyboard than the touchscreen, I wonder if there aren’t places in the writer’s overall workflow where a touch interface might be better than a keyboard.

A side note: I am happy that Microsoft is pursing the route of trying to build all these options (keyboard, mouse/trackpad, touchscreen, & precision stylus) into a single system. I’m neither convinced that it will work or that it won’t. It is the fact that I was always disappointed in their tablet offerings before and the ways they’ve disappointed me with other products that keep me from buying what they’re selling today.

17 November 2015

Book v. iPad Air v. iPad Pro

I put together an online iCloud photo album with some pictures comparing books with the same or equivalent e-book on iPad Air and iPad Pro.

While the iPad Air is a better size for typical novels and articles, the iPad Pro is (IMHO) better for textbooks† (like technical books and RPG books) and comic books.

Digest-sized RPG books are often better on the Air. Although, the Pro does allow viewing two of them side-by-side.

Unfortunately, to get the two books side-by-side I had to load them into different apps. (In this case, iBooks and PDF Expert.) Although I haven’t played with PDF Expert enough to know what it can do. My PDF app of choice, GoodReader, hasn’t been updated to support side-by-side or to fully support the iPad Pro yet.

Being able to view two arbitrary pages in the same PDF side-by-side could be useful too. While you could do this with the two apps workaround, it would be better if a single app added such a feature. GoodReader has the ability to open multiple pages from one PDF in separate tabs, so that seems a reasonable addition to better support the iPad Pro.

But being able to view a book at full iPad Air size on one side of the Pro while having another app—e.g. Pages, UX Writer, Evernote, etc.—at full iPad Air size on the other side seems promising.

†Ironic that the word “textbook” seems á propos to me here since what distinguishes these from typical novels and articles is that they have lots of images, tables, and diagrams in addition to text.

20 October 2015

Should GSL string_view should be string_ref instead

(Another one for C++ programmers)

Time for some bikeshedding.

It looks to me like GSL string_view and the library fundamentals TS (hereafter LFTS) string_view have different goals. Also, I have heard it said that the “_view” in LFTS string_view was meant to emphasis that it was read-only.

Perhaps GSL string_view should be called string_ref to distinguish it from LFTS string_view and because it isn’t strictly a “view”?

LFTS string_view’s goals are to be a (as much as possible) drop-in replacement for “const std::string&” without the memory allocation and copying that it sometimes requires. GSL string_view’s goals, however, are safety and being able to replace any use of a raw char array as a function parameter. These differences manifest in (at least) two ways. First, LFTS does not allow modification of the underlying data while GSL string_view does. (Although a const GSL string_view can be used.) Second, LFTS string_view copies all the const member functions of std::string while GSL string_view—just an alias for GSL’s array_view—prefers free functions for string-specific operations.

It doesn’t look like it will be easy to serve all of those goals without getting ugly. As much as it would be a shame to have two versions of somewhat similar concepts.

(I’m not as familiar with N3841 array_view yet, so I’m unsure if there is an analogous issue for array_view.)

Update (6 November 2015): Good news. In the wake of the October 2015 meeting in Kona, GSL’s array_view and string_view will be renamed span and string_span.