The Mac Finder’s new face is wrong and I don’t like it

It’s Mac OSX update day today and while there’s some good stuff in there (and, more importantly, no terribly ill-concieved stuff) theres also a major visual overhaul in this that is called Yosemite. Which, since we’re visual creatures, means everything is wrong. At least for a few days until we don’t notice it anymore.

But there is one thing I can see I’m going to have trouble with. The icon for the Finder (which, for non-Mac users, is the catchall term for the file system). Here’s the old one and the new one next to each other:

It was only when I saw this comparison that I realised what was wrong. They both show the same thing – a face that is actually two faces, one in profile in front of the other. But the old one is an abstraction. It could be a faces or it could just be some geometric lines. The two blues are much softer too. It feels like something that has accidentally formed a face, or two faces.

The new icon is definitely a face. Even the old duck-rabbit trick of the two faces has been softened to push forward the smiley. As chum Helen said, “I feel like it’s laughing at me”. The old icon wasn’t doing anything at you. It was just there.

Humans love faces. We see them everywhere, which is why the old icon works so well. It can be a subtle arrangement of lines and colours and we’ll still see a the face. But the new icon is a smiley face, no question about it.

Considering this is supposed to represent the file system and not the Mac as a whole, it does feel a little odd that the personality thing should be emphasised. The Smiley face was once the computer itself. Now it’s the directory structure.

Simple cartoon faces get meanings attached to them, and that meaning can be very subtle and nuanced. If you don’t believe me look at these collections of simple lines:

What’s interesting about those two is when I was searching for examples I came across a lot of fan art by people trying to copy the originals and, for the most part, it stood out a mile. Not because they were bad but because even the slightest variance in the lines can dramatically change the meaning we attach to the face.

Using a face to represent something, especially something abstract like a file system, is fraught with danger. Faces are important to us. We trust people based on their faces. We go to war with people based on their faces. We honestly believe that we can tell if someone is telling the truth by looking into their eyes, which is palpably nonsense but that’s how important faces are to us.

Before today I could pretend the Finder icon wasn’t a face and treat it like every other colourful blob on the screen when I Cmd-Tabbed to another app. Now there’s this face, this representation of The Other, smiling at me.

Who are you? What do you want?

It’s very disturbing.

So I joined the Green Party

It’s been a funny old week in UK politics with the UKIPs getting an MP (well, borrowing a Tory MP for a bit) and, more interestingly, nearly winning in a Labour safe seat, which has meant both Labour and the Conservatives have taken some big steps to the right in their rhetoric while the BBC and other broadcasters are helping UKIP to move the debate in that direction too. 

For those of us who lean slightly to the left and who think the problems of the world probably aren’t due to poor people and greedy immigrants, these are confusing and dark days and it doesn’t take a paranoid reactionary to see parallels with the 1930s. Where will this all lead? And how can we stop it? 

I’ve considered joining the Labour party. After all, they’re the ones I’m most likely to vote for, despite massive reservations. But I don’t think Labour is interested in what I have to say because I’m a sure thing. I’m on their side and trapped by an ideological lock-in. I should put up and accept the compromises needed to get into power because the necessary bad will be outweighed by the good. 

I understand that logic. While I might have some views and ideas that are way out of the mainstream, I don’t expect to live in a world that accepts them. Compromise is good, because extremes are always bad. There is no Utopia, just the best we can make of a complex situation. The middle-ground is always a good thing to aim for. 

But thanks to the extremists of UKIP and the Tory right posing as “common sense” that middle ground is shifting into a place I don’t like. I’d like to help shift it back to sanity. 

It seems to me that a Labour government is generally going to be the best way to run the country. The problem is the Labour Party machine is optimised to chase votes and it sees votes over on the right. We need to take its votes away from the left. Then it will sense them going and start aligning to those needs. 

Sure, that might left a Conservative government in in the next election, but they should have thought of that before rejecting Proportional Representation in favour of a status quo that disenfranchises most of the population. 

So, who to vote for? I’ve never felt comfortable with the hard-left parties. They’re too ranty, too, uncompromising, too academic at times, and generally too annoying for me. 

I’d noticed a few people I knew were talking about voting Green, and they do have an MP, albeit in Brighton which isn’t exactly on this plane of reality. So I thought I’d have a look. And, generally speaking, I agree with most of it. Sure, there’s bits I maybe wouldn’t emphasise quite as much on the eco-side, but it is the Green party so I can deal with that. 

The point is the Greens will never be in power in this country under the current system. But by strengthening their position, by helping them get more councillors and MPs, we can start shifting the Overton Window away from the cold, hateful place UKIP want to somewhere more caring, more equitable, more human. 

And then, at some point in the future, we’ll be able to vote for Labour or the Conservatives without holding our noses. 

That’s the plan anyway!

So from today I’m a paid-up member of the Green Party. Leaflets will be going through doors on my street. I might even blog about it, though probably only in a personal way. 

Fuck UKIP – vote Green.

Some more things you might have missed when I farted them onto Twitter recently

Bruce Sterling’s The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things (Kindle) is probably the most important essay/book/thing on the state of the Internet and the culture we do on it at this moment in time. Warren Ellis puts it well.

Bruce, in his usual blackly cheerful manner, breezes through the history and near future of the digital annexation of the domestic that was cutely denoted “the internet of things” or IoT, blowing away the glitter and the hand-waving and cutting down to the meat of the matter […] Show him anything of interest and he’ll have it skinned and boned and slapped on the counter for you with intelligence, skill and efficiency. And that’s what happens here. Start with the fluffy little IoT, end up with a document on corporate dictatorship and sociopolitical extinction.

I particularly recommend it to anyone who likes the term “disruption” and goes to tech/art conferences. It should serve as a wakeup call. And it’s a fantastically fun read too.

One of the problems with getting energy from today’s planetary processes, as opposed to those which occurred millions of years ago, is storing the energy from wind, sun and water is much harder than storing oil in barrels. Or is it? In Utah, spare energy is being used to fill massive caverns with compressed air, which is then released through turbines when the wind drops. This reminded me of the Welsh mountain reservoirs which pump water uphill overnight when there’s an energy glut and then release it in the evening when Eastenders finishes and everyone in the UK puts on the kettle. The video at that link is well worth 2 minutes of you time. So next time someone says “but what about when the sun goes in / wind drops?” you’ll know what to say.

Korean weird-pop went a bit mainstream last year with Psy so it’s good to see this hit the tubes. Nice!

Timelapse or Hyperlapse or whatever they’re calling them these days movies tend to be all woo but of very little substance. This one breaks the mould. Technically awesome and politically and socially wise.

Anil Dash has been blogging for 15 years (which means I’ll have been blogging for 15 years next summer!) and has written a wonderful list of lessons he’s learned about blogging which I can heartily recommend. In fact it applies to all personal writing where the purpose is to figure stuff out and make sense of the world. In other words blogging as a true art-form, not as a commercial content social strategy.

The Faces of the Manhattan Project. Here’s Oppenheimer and Feynman, but the point of this is the sea of other faces that also worked on the atom bomb.

Why Nerd Culture Must Die. There’s been a lot of this lately, now the nerds have sort of taken over and are having trouble reconciling their teenage persecution and adult respect. This piece looks at how the culture of that persecution can have some very negative social effects when it’s actually in power.

Jerry Seinfeld is given an award by the advertising industry.

Cooking Coconut Macaroons with David Yow of Jesus Lizard, part of Pancake Mountain, a new kids TV show for 90s indie kids who have kids of their own now. It’s like if Jim Henson was a grunge-punker. Or something.

The Cheapest Little Car Park In Digbeth

In an ideal world driving into the centre of Birmingham should be a fool’s errand. Nobody drives into London unless they have to but due to the unique way Birmingham is covered in roads its actually cheaper, quicker and more efficient to drive a car right to the edge of the city centre core than get a bus or a train.

Sidebar: yes, cycling, but I am currently a) without a bike and b) absurdly unfit thanks to middle age taking me by surprise. I plan on working on both of these.

This is, of course, insane, but it’s what we have to work with, and so since passing my test a couple of years back I’ve picked up some tricks.

Parking in Digbeth is usually a good one since it’s mostly free and people with big fancy cars tend to be paranoid about parking there but it does get a bit rammed during the day. Then there are the car parks which are always cheaper than a return bus fare and tend to be closer to where you actually want to go.

And then there’s this little spot.

Google Maps-1

On the corner of MacDonald St and Barford Street, just by the Lamp Tavern, is the council car park that time and the council has seemingly forgotten about. The price for parking is as follows:

1 hour: 20p

2 hours: 40p

3 hours: 60p

and so on up to £2.10 for the whole day. Which is the same as your bus fare.

And it’s not that far from town – effectively at the bottom of Hurst St, 5 minutes from the Hippodrome. But most importantly I’ve never known it to be full.

You’re welcome.

Google Maps-2

My Dad is the King of Sweden

For reasons that really aren’t at all relevant, the Wikipedia page for the King of Sweden appeared on my Twitter tonight. Here’s the photo of him. 

Like most Wikipedia photos it’s unlikely to be an official portrait, because those will be copyrighted and Wikipedia is all about the public domian, which photographers fear, so Wikipedia has no decent photos and has to resort to snapshots taken by plebs in the crowd, usually at Comicon for some reason. 

But for the sake of this post let’s not Google further (since Google laughs in the face of copyright and will show you ALL the photos that its algorithm deems worthy) and assume he actually looks like this all the time. 

Here is a photo taken my Matt at our recent wedding (oh, did I not mention? I really should get around to that) with my father on left. No, the other left. Your left. In the pink jacket.

Let me make it easier for you.

Like, whoa man. 


One of the most exciting things that happened on our honeymoon in the Azores was discovering that the port of Ponta Delgada uses tetrapod sea defences

I’ve always been a huge fan of tetrapods ever since seeing them on some fuckyeahconcrete tumblr or other. There’s something beautifully organic about the shape and they way they fall haphazardly against each other (which is deliberate as it slows the force of the waves rather than giving them something solid to hit). One might even consider there to be something sexual about them, like the tops of giant thighs, if one were so inclined. And, dear reader, I confess I have been. But only to consider, not to act, please be assured of that. 

Yes, that was a photo of my wife sitting on a rather suggestive tetrapod. I’m making no apologies. Double win. 

More seriously, if it’s possible to dig myself out of this hole, they do lend themselves well to the camera and we spent a good while exploring that bit of the coast. Here’s some pics. 

There’s more in this Flickr set.

Finally, I noticed these large rusty metal plates stacked up nearby. What do you think they are? 

That’s right – tetrapod moulds! Bolt four of them together, stick caps in three ends and fill it up with concrete! 

Sadly they were way to heavy to take home on the plane. But it did get me thinking that they wouldn’t be too hard to fabricate on a smaller scale, or to make full size but for lighter materials. 

I will make my own tetrapod in Birmingham. It will sit alongside the geodesic dome I will also make in Birmingham. And it will be awesome. 

(Like all the best things, tetrapods are huge in Japan. See here and here.)