Controlling a phone with gestures

With the iPhone X launching this fall without a home button, many iOS users are going to have to get used to controlling their phones with just gestures. For those of us with a history on BlackBerry 10 we know how this works, and we are here to tell you that it is awesome.

Swipe up to home

Honestly this gesture is perfect. A simple swipe up to get back to the home screen is super intuitive, and as much as I enjoy the fingerprint reader, having to use a button on my iPhone still feels like a step backwards.

Swipe down for control center

Again this is straight out of the BlackBerry 10 interface and it works well. Honestly this isn’t much different than the current iOS approach, but moving to the top to have the more reachable swipe sending you home makes sense.

Lift to wake

This was added in BlackBerry 10.3.1 and while conceptually neat, I actually went and turned this off. Just reaching to place the phone in my pocket the screen would flash on and I found this to be too distracting, so I went without this function.

FaceID

BlackBerry didn’t have this one. Apple seems confident in their technology, and honestly it is going to make or break this design. If it can not match the speed of touch id then I probably won’t be getting the iPhone X.

BlackBerry Hub

Apple hasn’t shown off notification on the new phone, so I am going to keep the dream alive. Probably not going to ship with iOS 11. Still I think this is one area where iPhone will remain behind BlackBerry’s ease of use.

5 BlackBerry Storm features that the iPhone still lacks

With a higher resolution screen, a better camera, LTE support, and an OS that has been updated in the past eight years, the iPhone 7 is far superior to the BlackBerry Storm. Still there are a few things that the old phone still does better. With Apple releasing iOS 11 next month, lets hope that some of these features get included.

Unified Inbox

The BlackBerry Storm had a messages app that combined multiple email accounts, SMS, BBM, Twitter, and almost all other messaging platforms into a single feed. While not as complete as BlackBerry 10’s Hub, it was still superior to the siloed experience found on iOS. Attempts to address this issue on iOS with a notification center are not remotely useful.

A default email client that supports push for gmail accounts

The default email client for iOS is bad in many ways. However the lack of push support for the world’s most popular email service is particularly embarrassing. Third party clients support this, and BlackBerry has had this feature since well before the iPhone was ever launched.

Notification LED

One of BlackBerry’s simpler features was a small led that could be configured to blink different colors for different types of notifications. This allows you to know if you have any messages just a glance, and without even touching your phone. I am utterly baffled as to why other phone manufactures have not copied this feature.

An accessible file system

My iPhone has 128 GB of storage, yet I am unable to download email attachments simply because there is no place to just store arbitrary files. This could also be useful for transferring songs and pictures on and off from the phone. Apple’s attempt to hide complexity is actually making simple operations more complex.

A clickable screen that actually clicks

Honestly, neither the BlackBerry Storm’s click screen, nor the iPhone’s 3-D touch are good ideas. An interface that can work with a simple touch screen is a superior experience. But if you are going to have a clickable screen, you may as well commit to having a clickable screen. The 3-D touch feature on iOS is difficult to trigger intentionally, and in practice is more likely to trigger a long press event.

BlackBerry 10 OS distribution

The distribution of BlackBerry 10 OS versions continues to be unchanged this summer with roughly half of all users running OS 10.3.3 and over 90% of users on at least some variant of 10.3.X.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of July 2016 through the end of July 2017.

BlackBerry never really supported Flash

Indulge me for a minute while I talk about two dead technologies.

Yesterday, Adobe finally announced the end for Flash, although it has been mostly dead for a few years now. This was driven largely by the lack of support on smartphones, and while the lack of Flash support on iOS is well known, BlackBerry quietly did very little to help Flash along.

In the early days of BlackBerry the browsers were underpowered and couldn’t really support HTML, let alone anything more powerful. BlackBerry started shipping a serious browser in 2008. Not only did it not support Flash, but it had javascript turned off by default. In 2010 (a few months after Steve Job’s letter), BlackBerry shipped their first webkit based browser. It also did not support Flash. All through this time, BlackBerry would publicly support Adobe, and then not ship anything on their phones.

In 2013 BlackBerry 10 was launched, and Flash support was finally included in the browser. However it was disabled by default. Less then two years later in early 2015 BlackBerry released OS 10.3.1 which removed support for Flash.

Despite almost a decade of standing behind Adobe Flash, BlackBerry only actually included it on their phones for a bit under two years, during which time it was always disabled by default. Furthermore, they did this years after everyone else had already moved on. Apple was far more straight forwards in their rejection of Flash, but BlackBerry did the technology no favors as well…

BlackBerry 10 OS distribution

The distribution of BlackBerry 10 OS versions is just as boring as you would expect it to be for an abandoned operating system. Almost all users are on some variant of OS 10.3.X with roughly half running the newest point release.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of May 2016 through the end of May 2017.

Adding a keyboard shortcut to refresh Google Chrome on the Mac

As a developer, a lot of time is spent continuously refreshing a web page. This can be made faster by using a keyboard shortcut, for most browsers refreshing is done by the F5 key. However, despite repeated requests Google has still not built in this functionality to the Mac OS version of Chrome. Fortunately there is another way to add this feature.

  1. First open up “System Preferences”
  2. Select “Keyboard” and then the “Shortcuts” tab
  3. On the left panel select “App Shortcuts”
  4. Then press the “+” button below the white boxes
  5. From the application dropdown select “Google Chrome”
  6. For the Menu Title enter “Reload This Page” (This text must be exact)
  7. In the Keyboard Shortcut field hit the F5 key

It is a bit of a work-around, but this adds the ability to use the F5 key to refresh a webpage when using Chrome on the Mac.

Pixelated released for iPhone

After eight years of requests, Pixelated Plus is finally available for the iPhone. This new version of the game has all the same features as the BlackBerry and Windows releases of Pixelated. A one time in-app purchase can be used to unlock all statistics and features and grid sizes in the game.

The BlackBerry 10 version of Pixelated Plus has also been updated to add make showing the number of remaining moves in a game to be optional.

About Pixelated

Pixelated is an addictive puzzle based strategy game that requires a mixture of skill and luck in order to accomplish. The object of the game is to change the colour of the squares until the entire screen is a single solid colour. Starting with the square in the upper left corner you can change the colour of the blocks in order to match that of the surrounding squares. This is done repeatedly until the entire screen is a single colour. The object of the game is to clear the screen in as few moves as possible. Under the default settings you must do so in under 22 moves in order to win. The game is controlled by the large colored blocks at the bottom of the screen.

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Use of 10.3.3 approaches 50% of BlackBerry 10 users

The launch of BlackBerry 10.3.3 remains slow, but has finally reached half of the users running BlackBerry 10 phones. Use of BlackBerry’s newest (and final) OS has reached 52.8% of Pixelated users, and 48.5% of users of the Stuff I Need app.


This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of April 2016 through the end of April 2017.

Update to BlackBerry 10 game Head Words

ShapeItAppThe BlackBerry 10 game Head Words has been updated to version 1.4 in BlackBerry App World. This update expands the number of items in the game’s existing categories. This is partially to account for new movies and tv shows that have been released since the last update, and partially to simply add more depth to the other categories.

About Head Words

Head Words is a native multi-player guessing game where after selecting a category, one player places the phone on their forehead while the other players give clues. With one minute to guess as many words as possible, the player can tilt the phone down for each correct answer, or tilt the phone up to pass. At the end of round a word list will show what was guessed right and wrong. The swipe down menu provides an option to turn the sound on or off.

The game includes five categories for free, and the option to purchase access to ten additional categories for a dollar each.

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More sites added to First Rule

The First Rule comment blocking app has been updated to version 1.2 for Chrome and iOS. This update adds blocking for additional websites, as well as improving the app’s load time on iOS.

About First Rule

Everyone knows that the first rule of the internet is “Do not read the comments”, yet far too many of us still get suckered into yelling at strangers on the internet. This situation isn’t good for anyone, and it would be better off if comment sections simply did not exist. The First Rule app makes this a reality, by blocking the comments on mobile (iOS) and desktop (Chrome).

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Chrome Extension shows earnings estimates for YouTube videos

Video Money Count is a Chrome extension that estimates how much advertisers had spent advertising against a video. The extension simply adds the estimate below the view count on all YouTube pages.

The extension was inspired by a recent CGP Grey video that has been automatically updating the title to reflect the video’s estimated advertising spend. This extension uses that same estimation technique to approximate how much advertisers have spent against a given video.

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BlackBerry 10.3.3 roll out remains slow

Adoption of the final version of BlackBerry OS remains slow, with most users still using the older 10.3.2 version. In March the use of 10.3.3 was well below half, reaching only 41.7% of Stuff I Need users, and 22.7% of Pixelated users.


This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of March 2016 through the end of March 2017.

Predicting the Frozen Four Results

With the college hockey season wrapping up this weekend, I am using my Elo ratings to predict the results of the final weekends games.

Harvard (which currently has its all time highest rating of 1753) is the favorite with a 30.54% chance of winning the tournament. They are followed by Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Notre Dame. Full odds are at ebscer.com/collegehockey/2017-ncaa-hockey2

Elo correctly predicted 10 of the 12 games in the tournament’s first weekend, and already has predictions ready for Thursday’s games.

Update for First Rule comment blocker app

The First Rule comment blocking application has been updated to version 1.1 in the Chrome storefront. This update adds comment blocking on an additional 150 domains, bringing the total number of websites with blocked comments to over eighteen-hundred.

About First Rule

Everyone knows that the first rule of the internet is “Do not read the comments”, yet far too many of us still get suckered into yelling at strangers on the internet. This situation isn’t good for anyone, and it would be better off if comment sections simply did not exist. The First Rule app makes this a reality, by blocking the comments on mobile (iOS) and desktop (Chrome).

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One month in, the BlackBerry 10.3.3 rollout has stalled

Last month saw the launch of BlackBerry 10.3.3 which resulted in the BlackBerry 10 OS distribution in changing for the first time in a year. One month later, there is once again no change from the previous month as the rollout of the final version of the OS appears to have already stalled.

January once again saw the vast majority of users running the older 10.3.2 OS. So far less than a third of all users have moved to 10.3.3, and given the lack of carrier interest it is questionable if they ever will.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of January 2016 through the end of January 2017.