The Snowman – Walking in the Air

This is a clip from the animated short, The Snowman, from 1982. This was adapted from a book written by Raymond Briggs in 1978.

I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.

This is my favorite scene from the animated short.

 

And the entire animated short –

 

Tater Tots Through Time

Every year at the Automattic Grand Meetup the entire company gets together in one place for a little over a week to work and have fun. Part of that meetup requires everyone to give a four minute flash talk on any subject. This year my coworker Carolyn Sonnek and I decided to team up on our flash talk.

Carolyn and I are Tater Tot experts. EXPERTS. We dug deep and found some interesting facts on Tater Tots and even a conspiracy!

iPhone 6 Plus Screen Backlight Issue

I’ve noticed an issue I’ve been having with my iPhone 6 Plus a couple weeks ago. After the phone has been in my pocket for an indeterminate amount of time, I would randomly be unable to light the screen back up. The phone would come out of sleep, I could swipe to unlock (or use Voice Over) and I could see the backlight come on. The problem was the screen itself was just black – nothing to show. Rebooting sometimes fixed this. It was especially annoying when trying to board a plane and then being unable to bring up the boarding pass.

I noticed this week that I could produce a similar behavior more regularly. I needed something I could reliably reproduce before bringing it into an Apple Store. Here it is:

Hopefully they can repair or replace the device. I made the mistake of going with a regional carrier (US Cellular) and in the past I heard you had to arrange repair through the carrier. I’m hoping its just a screen replacement and they can do it in-store.

Recording Your iOS Device with QuickTime Player

The Task

You need to record your iPhone or iPad’s screen to show someone a bug or demo a feature to your customers. In the past the only method available was to use a program like Reflector to emulate an AirPlay/Apple TV and then record on your machine. This works fairly decently although the quality over WiFi isn’t very good leaving you with a less-than-crisp recording. Reflector also isn’t free which makes it difficult for users in the wild to record bugs.

Enter iOS 8 & Yosemite

Apple introduced the ability to record the screens of iOS 8 devices with QuickTime Player in Mac OS X Yosemite. You may have already been familiar with the ability to do a screen recording with QuickTime but now those screens includes any of the iOS 8 devices you have connected with a cable. The implications of this new feature include:

  • High quality video recording – the video is going over the wire instead of WiFi
  • Capture audio from the device or your computer
  • Easy access to QuickTime’s built-in exporting tools
  • No new software to install – Yosemite and iOS 8 are the only requirement

The Steps

  1. Connect your iOS 8 device to your Mac OS X Yosemite (10.10) computer with the USB to lightning or dock connector cable.
  2. Launch QuickTime Player (inside of /Applications in Finder).
  3. Click Done on the file browser window that appears by default when QuickTime launches.
  4. Click File > New Movie Recording. A window will appear typically picking your built-in FaceTime camera by default. Smile.
    QuickTime File New Recording
  5. Click the little arrow next to the red recording button.
    QuickTime Recording Inputs
  6. Under Camera select the iOS device you wish to record.
  7. Your iOS device’s screen should appear on your Mac.
  8. Optionally select your device under Microphone as well if you want to record the audio from the device rather than your computer’s microphone.
  9. Click the red record button when you want to record, clicking it again when you’re done.
  10. Export the video under File > Export picking an appropriate resolution.

Notice that Apple took the time to replace your device’s status bar with one being carrier-free and fixed at 9:41am.

QuickTime Sanitized Status Bar

Nice touch.

Limitations

There are only a couple limitations that I’ve found so far. Finger tips are not shown in the video, so it can be hard to demonstrate things. My suggestion is to talk through the issue or provide a list of things you tapped if its not obvious. Secondly if you’re trying to demonstrate something that involves going full screen (like watching a video on the phone) then the recording will not capture the full screen presentation (it’ll go black). Lastly there is a little bit of lag when you’re recording so make sure to watch the actual device screen and not your computer. If you record audio from your microphone, QuickTime does a good job syncing it up afterwards. This process also works a bit better on newer devices.

Next Steps

Sharing the video you’ve recorded can be a challenge since these videos tend to be of a very very large size in a matter of seconds. Exporting in 480p can definitely help. If you’re providing a demonstration of a bug then you may wish to clip the beginning and end of the movie to only show the actual reproduction of the bug. Follow Apple’s instructions on how to clip a video here.

Reflector is still a great program and very useful. Simple things like being able to add a fake iPhone or iPad frame around the video makes a big difference for demo purposes. I will still continue to use Reflector especially since it’s still the only way to record iOS 7 devices.

Things With Wheels Flash Talk

Every year at Automattic we get together at what we call the Grand Meetup. Everyone is expected to give a four minute flash talk on any subject – literally any subject. Last year I described a funny story about a boss stealing my iPhone. This year I combined another funny story with some personal philosophies.

Last summer I posted about how Things With Wheels Are Meant To Move and that paired well with my tweets about my philosophy on systems. This flash talk is an amalgamation of those two posts.

 

Look Up & Unplug

This is probably one of the best videos I’ve seen promoting the need for us as humans to reconnect with each other.  I work for a distributed company and I call tell you, we realize the importance of face to face interaction.  Also we need to make sure we’re connecting not just to our friends, family and other humans but also our pets.  It’s so easy to ignore them when you’re tied into an electronic device all day long.  They need love too :).