Inconsistent UI: The Google Menu

This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy and when I'm done picking nits I imagine that most of you will look at me like I'm insane. So be it.

My OCD alarm tripped yesterday when I noticed the new "Play" link in the Google "menu". I don't really care for the "NEW" link next to it. The red text on a dark background bothers my eyes. But that's beside the point. When I followed the link to see what "Play" was all about, I noticed that the Google menu changed.

And there it is. That's the look that I knew you would give me.

I am a stickler for consistent user interfaces (UIs). One of the many complaints I've consistently had with Microsoft over the years is how the same task is performed differently depending on which of their products you use. It was not uncommon to hear me wondering whether any of the Microsoft development groups talked to each other. I tend to wonder very loudly.

The menu on the Google Play site is just so very obviously different that it was really jarring when it came up. (Again, keep in mind that we're talking about someone that's anal retentive about some things.) The Play team obviously felt that they wanted links to show up closer to the left-hand margin. I guess that might make sense if you wanted to cram more links into that bar, but they made two other changes that obviate the need for that. First, they only use a bold font for the "active" service ("Play" in this case) and then they don't include links to all of the same services that the other sites do. Obviously nobody needs direct access to Documents or Calendars from Google Play.

Presumably "Play" is their most recent property. Since it comes after everything else, why can't it match? Does it represent a future standard or is it just sloppy?

I figured I would see how all of the other sites lined up. Literally. Here's the breakdown:

  • YouTube doesn't factor into this discussion because without a menu bar at all it's completely different.
  • Of the nine non-YouTube Google sites, the first menu bar link has three starting locations with six sites being the most consistent (Google+, Search, Images (search), Maps, News and Calendar). Two sites are shifted a little to the left margin (Gmail and Documents). The aforementioned Play is on its own.
  • Where the Google logo is displayed (not YouTube or Play), two different sizes/starting positions are used. Four sites use a larger logo with a wider left-hand margin (Google+, Maps, News and Calendar). I'm ignoring the fact that there is a plus sign after the logo on the Google+ site. Two sites use a smaller logo with a narrower left-hand margin (Gmail and Documents).
Does any of this matter? Maybe not. But if the goal is to give the impression that we are using some unified Google service, it's little things like this that will cause some of us to question just how well integrated this ecosystem is. (Sorry. Mandatory buzzword inclusion.)

Those of you worried about how Google is going to share your personal data on the back end should be encouraged. If the attention to detail on largely cosmetic concerns is lacking, one wonders how well the various teams exchange data behind the scenes. Of course, when it comes to Google's bread and butter, I imagine they're making sure the "right" details are getting the exactly the correct amount of attention.

Love For The Guys At PC Gamer Magazine

So last September-ish I'm watching NSFW which is this crazy show on the TWiT Network and they had the guys from PC Gamer on. I laughed, I cried (because I was laughing so hard) and figured I would follow them on Twitter. Why? Because they entertain me.

Here's the show. If you're not into mindless, juvenile fun, you'll probably want to skip it.

At any rate, I will occasionally try to post something witty in response to an amusing post. I've been likened unto the neighbor in a sitcom that shows up every now and then. I hope I'm the one that pops his head in and they crank up the canned applause instead of the other one that just causes everyone to groan and change channels.

Either as "hush money" or because I was just entertaining enough or because I said something at just the right time, Logan decided to send me a copy of Darkness II. Honestly, I know little about the game, but I'm definitely down with free stuff. I just installed it tonight so we'll see how that goes. My thanks, regardless.

So if you're into PC gaming, both the site and the people who work there are top-notch. If you want to find out more, hit any of the following links:

PC Gamer (web) -
PC Gamer (twitter) - @pcgamer
Logan Decker - @logandecker
Chris Comiskey - @havoc06
Tyler Wilde - @tyler_wilde

Retina iPad Backgrounds

I got a new iPad this past Friday and the retina display is a-maz-ing. Of course, I had skipped the iPad 2 so going from first to third generation is both quite a jump and worth the upgrade. If you have an iPad 2 then your decision to move up is much more difficult.

For the record, I ended up with the 32GB iPad, black with Verizon LTE. (Not that I can enjoy the LTE speeds since Paducah isn't currently covered, but I expected that.)

At any rate, I noticed that there was not a huge selection of retina display ready background images out there so I figured I would put together a collection of my own. If you're looking to customize your new toy with some high resolution artwork, click one of the links below to be taken to either my Flickr set or my Google+ album where you can download a 2048x2048 resolution file.

Flickr Set - iPad Backgrounds (Retina)
Google+ Album - Retina iPad Backgrounds

Silent Silo Sentinels

I like driving around and looking at scenery. I like riding around while someone else drives around because I can snap away with the camera. I probably could take pictures while I was driving, but I suspect that would be frowned upon by many people.

So I'm riding shotgun in my parents' van while I'm visiting them for Thanksgiving in good, ol' Lancaster, PA. It's the end of November. Cold. Rainy. No way I'm riding with the window down. I also turned down offers to stop the vehicle for photo ops. It's no wonder that the photos I took during this ride were less than stellar.

Fortunately, because they were so bad they had nowhere to go but up! Almost as a personal challenge, I picked a semi-interesting photo from the set and started to toy around. What you see below is the progression.

The first thing I did was to adjust levels in Lightroom and create some additional exposures. These got pulled into Photomatix and processed to bring out as much detail as possible.

The Photoshop work pumped up colors, adjusted levels and I attempted to create a bit more dimensionality to all of the silos. I also did not care for the bare corn field in the foreground so I cloned some grass and applied a lens blur for depth and blending.

Not quite a lemons to lemonade transformation, but passable. Maybe a lemons to lemon-flavored sugar water?

Chrysler Building - New York In Miniature

There are a lot of taller buildings in New York City and plenty that are more famous, but one of my favorite skyscrapers is the Chrysler Building. Just something about that art-deco spire. This view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building may not be particularly original, but I enjoy it just the same.

The relatively shallow depth-of-field was created in Photoshop by the masked application of a lens blur filter. The result isn't as "miniature" as some of the other photos I've done like this, but I was attempting to balance the effect without losing too much of the interesting details around the building.