Actually, Note 5 #Penghazi is Less Stupid Than I Thought

MacBreak Weekly on TWiT.

Yesterday, I wrote that the controversy over the Galaxy Note 5’s S Pen was overblown. Quickly: if you stick it in backwards, it gets stuck and does at the least significant damage. People cried “recall,” “design flaw,” and invented the (hilarious) hashtag #penghazi. Apple-loving pundits couldn’t contain their glee or smugness. I said that this was silly, that it was akin to trying to shove a floppy disk into a drive upside-down and then blaming the manufacturer when it breaks something.

What I didn’t realize, however, was just how easy it was to do this accidentally. I didn’t understand that until I saw this clip of Leo Laporte, who was just casually discussing the controversy on MacBreak Weekly, fiddled with the S Pen going in butt-first into his Note 5, and lo and behold, not even halfway in, it got stuck.

I had been fiddling the very same way! It didn’t happen to get stuck, so I may have dodged a bullet.

So, I’m obviously reevaluating my hard and fast position of “just don’t do that.” It’s simply too easy for this to happen by accident.

And even if it wasn’t all that easy, before I even came to this new realization I thought about ways that Samsung could address this if it was inclined. Now I feel like these have moved from “could do” to “must do.” (Samsung’s not known for being classy or anything, so who knows what they’ll ever do.)

First, no-questions-asked returns on Note 5 devices. If someone bought this and they’re worried about it, or worse, they’ve gotten it stuck, they can return it for a full refund.

Second, they should cover all repairs related to this issue, free of charge.

Third, presuming they’re not going to redesign the whole phone, they need to make a new S Pen with a wider butt-end, maybe with a rubbery nub, such that it is impossible to stick into the phone backward, and send one to every Note 5 owner, free.

Alternatively, at least issue (free of charge again) a rubbery cap of some sort to put on the end of the S Pen to serve the same function of keeping it from going in the wrong way, some kind of cap that’s more or less impossible to take off again.

And that should be that.

So I largely take back the last post. This is a much bigger problem than I thought.

I’m delighted with my Note 5. It’s a wonderful device, and chances are this S Pen problem would never have even come up for me. Now I confess to being a touch nervous about it, but it’s not enough to make me regret my decision to get this phone. It’s still amazing, and it’s still a keeper.

But I’ll take that redesigned S Pen, now.

Poor Leo.

You Got Taylor Swift in My Trent Reznor!

I am not generally impressed by Taylor Swift. I like some Nine Inch Nails and respect Trent Reznor, but I also think the whole act is a little overwrought and silly sometimes.
I had no idea that the two, not unlike peanut butter and chocolate, could be so good together.

And now, of course, “Shake it Off” is stuck in my head, and I’m beginning to get why the people like this Swift person so much. God dammit.

Gloves That Allow You To Look Like an Idiot and Simultaneously Awesome

ThinkGeek is now selling gloves that also serve as a Bluetooth handset for talking on the phone…by actually making that thumb-and-pinky sign with your hands!

Where has this been??? Why are we seven years into the smartphone revolution and this only comes about now??? What has the rest of the industry been wasting its time on???

Well fuck it. I hate talking on the phone very, very much, but if I had these, I’d suck it up.

Here’s their super-weird video.

Oh Shit, Earth Actually is Flat

That is, if you’re a cosmic particle traveling at 99.9999999999991% the speed of light.

What a fascinating way to look at the basic shapes of All Things that we take for granted.

But no, there’s no need to join the Flat Earth Society, unless, of course, you’re talking about Thomas Dolby’s fan club. The man says:

Friends have often asked me why
I’m sensitive about my height

Kermit the Frog Performs Twitter’s Strategy Statement

Twitter released its strategy statement to investors on November 12, 2014, to (at best) mixed reception. Here, Kermit the Frog performs the statement, word-for-word.

See also Kermit performing Mitt Romney’s explanation about releasing his tax returns from 2012.

Amazon Puts the Eye of Sauron in Your House

Amazon just announced a weird cylindrical thing called Echo that you talk to in your house. Here’s their awkward ad.

Here are some of my knee-jerk responses to this.

On the device:

In the short term, it looks ridiculous. A big fat cylinder that resembles an air purifier or an ashtray that does what your smartphone already does, which is always with you. The very fact that you use your smartphone to set it up and tinker with it spells out how redundant this seems. Yes, there are kids who don’t have smartphones (one hopes) who might like to talk to the Echo, but it doesn’t seem to me to justify a standalone device.

In the long term, I get it. This a step toward the Star Trek Enterprise-computer, the personification of our homes. This is certainly where things are headed, and it remains an open question as to whether the computing power of that entity will be in our pockets, on our wrists, or in a standalone device.

At first blush, I don’t immediately see any reason for almost anyone to buy this. But soon we’ll all be using something like it. Amazon wants to have its Eye-and-Mouth-of-Sauron in your house before Siri or Android get there.

(By the way, I asked my 4-year-old boy to name the Siri-like Google Now voice on my phone, and he immediately said, “Hershey!” Perfect, right?)

On the ad:

It’s terrible. It’s like a parody of an ad for an embarrassing product. SNL’s “The Love Toilet” seemed more sincere and practical. I can’t believe how 1950s this family is. Dad makes the decisions, wants the news, asks questions about mountains. Mom cooks and doesn’t understand the technology. And dad also seems like kind of a condescending jerk.

All in all, strange, strange times, my friends. Or, as Chris Hutton said on Twitter, “Amazon: first company to sell you the mics they use to listen to you.”

HP Unveils An All-Touch, Projector-Controlled PC

HP has announced something truly new and novel, a desktop PC that is entirely touch-based, but not by reaching out in front of you to touch the screen (which you can also do), but via an overhead projection onto a giant touchpad where a keyboard would normally be. Questions of practicality aside, it looks at first glance to be both a logical step in the direction technology is going, and a refreshingly new take on the desktop PC. It’s called the Sprout.

Skepticism is of course warranted. My immediate reservations include what appears from the video to be a big lack of saturation in the projection. I see this as a problem for two big reasons: One, it’s your primary way of interacting with the computer, so having things look dim or hazy could make it hard to be precise. Two, I’d worry that aside from when you’re typing, you’d be looking at the projection more than you would the primary display, which means most of your time is spent looking at the faint projection instead of the big, pretty monitor in front of you. That seems ergonomically awkward to say the least.

Perhaps in real life the image of the projection is much better than it seems in the promo videos (but I bet not as good as it looks in the promo photos)

But I suspect this is the right idea for where things are going. Take this concept as a foundation, and imagine that you have a rich, high-resolution projection with an iOS-style interface in front of a Retina iMac. Or instead of a projection, you have an iPad-style surface that adapts to the needs of the task at hand, and can even scan and sense dimension and distance of your hands and other objects. Now you’re talking.