Leopard’s Preview No Longer has Creepy Icon

The Preview application in OS X never rouses a lot of fanfare as it’s functionality is pretty basic, but it’s one of my favorite programs. As a PDF viewer, it’s thousands of time faster than Adobe Reader and that alone makes it priceless. But the icon has always been sorta creepy.

In most aspects it is a nice original style OS X icon, with two stacked documents laid out at an angle and a tool across the bottom right. The documents are photos and the tool is a magnifying glass of the type typically used to examine pictures on a light table- I think the metaphor works. That’s not the problem though- the problem is that the kid in the top photo has these creepy eyes that are all whites.

Current Preview icon and Leopard’s new Preview icon

It just doesn’t scale down to that size well. At any rate, it looks like the criticism (and here) can stop soon. Leopard has a new kid in the icon and his face is different. Actually, it looks like some arcane Photoshop (or Acorn) surgery has been done to graft a new child’s head in place of the old one. Apparently too much visual branding and recognition has been associated with the current Preview icon, and Apple didn’t want to throw the whole thing away.This one looks much better with the new 512×512 pixel icons possible in Tiger, but it also scales better at more typical resolutions without any weird results. Actually, when you look closer it is impressive how much work has been put into the new version. There are lots of subtle changes, and they’ve essentially rebuilt the icon from the ground up while maintaining something very close to the look we’re all used too.

The Original Hacker

Recent comments about “the hacker” character in modern movies and TV has lead me to a potentially uncomfortable realization. Penny Arcade posted a comic strip Monday on the matter. A couple weeks before goldenfiddle posted a chat transcript on the same idea. I think they were both inspired by Die Hard 4, which I haven’t seen, but you don’t have to look far to find other examples. I’ve only seen a quarter or fewer of 24 episodes, but they must be amongst the worst. That show would collapse if it’s weren’t for the constant usage of all-powerful hackers as a plot device. So lame.

And then I realized one of my most favorite and lovable and heroic characters of all time may be the original inspiration for all of these lame followers. I’m afraid R2D2 is the original hacker. He mostly opened doors and fixed space ships in a pretty “hands on” manner, but shutting down all the trash compactors on the detention level is on the edge.

Changed my mind about the CS3 icons

Adobe CS3 Icons in the Dock

In response to my Dad’s curiousity about some people talking about the new CS3 icons (one didn’t like them and linked to Adam Betts’s replacements: Betts CS3) I wrote this:

Good question.

Icons are a passionate topic for many Mac users. Mac icons have always been better than Windows icons, with the capability of being larger and having more colors and generally appealing more to discerning users (like many of the features of the Mac OS). This general trend has continued throughout the years and grown with the technology up to Mac OS X’s current and long standing ability to display icons with resolution of up to 128×128 pixels. (Vista finally catches up and surpasses the Mac by allowing 256×256 pixel icons, but does not have as well an established history, design language, nor guidelines as the Mac, and when October comes around will again be surpassed by 10.5’s ability to show 512×512 icons).

Additionally, the ability to easily customize an Application or indeed the entire Operating System’s icons has long been a feature of the Mac OS. Just Get Info on an icon, and copy and paste another icon to customize it to your liking. Popular companies such as the Iconfactory and individual designers (including me now and then) have been making cool replacement icons for years. There is even an iPhoto like program to catalog our custom icon collections called Pixadex.

This helps explain why such an intense debate broke out earlier this year when Adobe revealed their new icon system:
Adobe Software icons

Apparently the creation of the former Macromedia design team (now part of Adobe after the merger), the current color schemes of the large stable of applications now under Adobe’s roof were laid out on a color wheel and given a common typographic style. Criticisms were the order of the day, and designers and technologists lambasted Adobe for, amongst other things, essentially not designing the icons at all, turning icon design into a stale periodic table instead of an art form, and worse.

I was inclined to agree at the time. The icons all look very similar, and it seemed like they had indeed made a lame effort that would also prove to become a barrier to usability as users spent more time reading icons than looking at them at a glance to tell them apart and find the application they were looking for. Corporate branding appeared to have won out over truly usable and useful design (again). Not to mention they had abandoned the history of art alluded to and represented by Illustrator’s Venus icon as it had progressed over the years (actually already lost in CS and CS 2) and just cool expressive illustrations in general. Letters in a box? This is what the design team of the world’s leading producer of design software comes up with? Come on!

I’ve since changed my mind though. I now think the bold colors and square icons are really strong and stand out well. It’s easy to find the CS3 apps from all the other programs you may be running, especially when using the keyboard shortcut Apple -Tab to quickly switch through apps. The brightness and shape help the CS3 apps stand out, and the color is quick to get used to if you use them frequently as most people involved in digital production will.

Why is the white guy the most radical?

God, I would love to elect a black man or a chick! Believe me man, I want nothing more than the most radical change possible from this dogshit-crap-fest we are currently calling our democracy. What a perfect time for a woman and a black man to be staging serious runs at the White House!

But something is wrong. These inherently radical candidates are watering down their message to the typical, useless, centrist Democratic drivel that has lost the Dems the last two Presidential races: races they were practically handed on a platter.

And John Edwards, the rich white man from the south, is actually the one saying the most revolutionary things.

Shit like this is why no one cares anymore. God, it’s all so obvious and lame.

Hold your AAPL stock

AAPL 10 year performance

Here’s the deal, though I’ve not had the personal confidence to follow it: Apple’s stock continues to be primed for future growth regardless of iPods or any new product releases. Don’t sell it yet, no matter how high it gets.

No one is talking about computers anymore; with all the iPods, iTunes, iTunes Store, TV, and iPhone discussion; but Apple is still making them and selling more than ever-to the tune of 1.6 million last quarter. The PC market has matured quickly and dramatically over the past two decades, but that growth has stabilized notably in recent years, to the point that a PC has become a commodity. A functionally identical Windows machine has become the end product of every PC vendor, leaving price and support as the only possible fronts to differentiate and compete on. The price wars have hit bottom, and there is no where left to grow in that direction. Witness Dell’s inability to maintain growth and the reinstatement of Michael Dell as Chairman to turn them back around. Sorry to Michael, but this is not a game that you can win. Unfortunately for everyone, the two battlefronts of price and support are mutually exclusive and your HPs and Dells cannot go both ways. Support is expensive and cost-cutting hates expense. The best any Windows vendor can hope for from their PC business is to follow and maybe slightly outpace the industry growth average. In publicly held businesses, growth is king. Game Over.

Queue the exception to this bleak scenario: Apple has recently shown that it can outpace the industry growth average. Last quarter their computers sold 28% more than the year-ago quarter while the industry grew at just 9%. Why is this? Apple has done a good job of staying competitive on price for comparable hardware, while not pursuing the low end of the market at all in terms of low price or low performance. Which is nice, but they have clearly chosen to pursue support as a key differentiator more than price. And they’re not bad at it either, having convincingly won all Consumer Reports awards for tech support and customer satisfaction for half a dozen years running.

But the real magic is the Mac itself, which is just designed better and sports an entirely different Operating System and suite of software than that of any other PC maker.This leaves Apple in the enviable, but not accidental, position of being the only manufacturer capable of delivering a differentiated product in an otherwise commodity market. This will allow their sales to grow. This means money, if you own stock. Plus they invented the friggin iPod, have you heard of it?