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Reinventing the smartphone.

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The State of The Web

My name is Youssef Sarhan. I am building an experimental mobile web browser (Android) with my co-founder Sean Nicholls, and we need beta-testers right now. Get in touch.


Danny Crichton, a TechCrunch columnist, recently wrote an article entitled ‘As Mobile Roars Ahead, It’s Time To Finally Admit The Web Is Dying.’ In this post I will quote and explain, point-by-point, why I disagree with Danny and present an argument for why The Web is in the process of being reborn on mobile.

As Mobile Roars Ahead, It’s Time To Finally Admit The Web Is Dying

The title of the post, as read on techcrunch.com, a website — an almost unfair way of illustrating that The Web is well and truly alive, and that we get value out of it.

While discussions about tech bubbles have been heated, few commentators seem to be targeting their invective at the real underlying bubble: the World Wide Web itself is...

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Why do we pose for photos?

This is not normal, yet somehow it is. Cameras are these amazing devices that can capture the life of a moment, yet, we refuse to use them as such. Let me explain a little more.

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I’ve thought about this a little more; I’ve taken time to research it and I’ve even talked to my Grandmother about her first memories of being photographed. She is now in her 80s, but clearly remembers gathering in front of the lens with her family and extended family —the perfect Kodak moment(!)— at the age of 6. I think, if we take a moment to understand the origins of photography, we may shine a light on the everyday phenomena of posing.

The invention of photography was truly revolutionary; it changed everything. The first photograph is understood to have been produced in 1826. The word produced is key here. Photography as we know it, is incredibly fast, it certainly doesn’t feel produced, it feels...

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The Hypercube Watch

We have spent a lot of time iterating on the design of the Hypercube notification feed. You can read about that here. Hypercube notifications are all about learning and acting. You learn, then you act. In the notification card below, the user learns that their alarm is ringing and that they have three action options: Deactivate, Request Callout, or dismiss notification (side swipe) to do nothing.

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What if I took the learn and act principle of Hypercube notifications and applied to the wrist. How might that look? So, one afternoon, I decided to muse on the idea of a Hypercube watch.

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These mockups are just mockups and by no means represent a useable product, they are simply the by-product of naval gazing. Let me know what you think, I’m on Twitter @ys.

Good things take time. Sign up for Hypercube.

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An Awesome Negotiation Technique You Wish You Knew Sooner

This is one of the easiest and most under appreciated negotiation techniques I know. I’ve used it to get into celebrity parties and to negotiate better salaries. It works for anything whereby you need to get something beyond what is initially on offer.

So you arrive at the picture framer.

Walk directly to a member of staff who looks qualified enough to issue discounts but inexperienced enough to draw an hourly wage, and thus not invested in the notion of profit. These people are the most common type of employee.

Start by saying you’re interested in getting 5 X $50 picture frames built – secretly of course, you want 15.

They will give you an initial quote.

5 @ $50 = $250

Feign a ponder. Ask arbitrary questions. Ask for the price breakdown again. Then ask for a discount, you should be able to get an easy 10% off the top. Most places account for this in their pricing so it should be...

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Apple and the rejection of Bitcoin

It was Jobs’ intellectual and philosophical clarity that brought Apple from the brink of irrelevance to the most valuable company in the world, but it’s their aggressive controlling policies that people are growing incredibly uncomfortable with. Using their own communication to demonstrate a point, let me illustrate why Apple have become everything Jobs resented.

Jobs, in 2010, wrote an open letter entitled, Thoughts on Flash. He explained why closed 3rd party platforms are dangerous for developers and their ability to rapidly innovate.

If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features.
STEVE JOBS, 2010

Apple have become exactly what Jobs warned against. Just this week, Apple decided to remove all Bitcoin wallets from their App Store. The...

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Here’s how I bought Bitcoin off a guy on the street

Earlier today, I Tweeted this:

No reply, so I Googled “Instant Bitcoin”, which lead me to LocalBitcoin.com. At first, I thought their site looked a little rough around the edges, so I proceeded with caution. On Local Bitcoin there’s a list of people in my city willing to sell Bitcoin for cash.

I called a guy who had his cell number listed on his profile. We chatted for a bit, he seemed legitimate, friendly and experienced with cash transactions. His user reviews corroborated the way I felt about him. An hour later we met in person and in public. He scanned my QR code, deposited the amount I wanted to buy and I handed him the cash. The transaction took about 10 seconds. It was a relatively small transaction, but I’m...

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Redesigning The Smartphone Interface

Most smartphones are a grid of app icons. We app hop, like TV channels. Below was our first attempt at Hypercube to surface the information contained within apps. The goal being that we can better decide which app we should open. Philosophically, the idea is reasonable, but this interface was rough, literal and synthetic. It was the kind of thing people would want in theory, but in practice it would be useless.

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The design went from bad to worse.

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If ever you’re designing an interface with a user defined/image background, always test it on white, 40% grey and black. This will encourage the interface to show it’s true colours. Doing this forced me to deal with details that are easy to overlook.

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In these comps you can see a progression of a particular tangent; content from apps existing side by side at an OS level. ‘The feed’ we have come familiar with is now but applied to all apps....

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“Let’s make a phone”

I turned to Sean and said, “let’s make a phone”. In the days that followed, Sean built a small but functioning Arduino prototype that could send SMS messages to any cell number on earth. I remember sitting at my desk when I received a message from our first test device. At that moment, I felt a distinct sense of possibility. In this post, I’d like to share some of what we’ve been working on at Hypercube and what we mean when we say “we’re reinventing the smartphone.”

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We began Hypercube under the pretense that we would detach ourselves from what a smartphone is, and with great purpose imagine what it can become.

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We started with the bare metal. We bought as many hardware components and development boards as we could. Ordering parts from Korea was difficult, faulty components and poor communication was standard.

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We attached this particular dev board to a cardboard box. We needed to...

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Critical HTC One Lockscreen Bypass

CORRECTION 1: It appears this bug exclusively pertains to the HTC One, rather than Android as a whole. Most likely something to do with the HTC Sense software.

UPDATE 1: A Reddit user seems to have confirmed that HTC have issued a fix. I’ve yet to update and test. If anyone wants to confirm, I’m on Twitter.

One can very easily bypass the HTC One lockscreen by swiping up from the bottom center of the screen during restart. You have a less than 500ms window in which to swipe up before the lock pattern is enforced. I recorded this video to demonstrate the exploit. Once in, one has total access to all the phones settings and apps. This is a very serious exploit that needs to be fixed.

I am the co-founder of Hypercube. We working on some exciting ideas that will transform the way we build and use mobile apps.

Sign up today, as we are making an important announcement soon.

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The importance of a flexible hubris

It’s good to know when you’re wrong, as it allows you to make way for what’s right. If you never know when you’re wrong, you’re just another obstacle in the pursuit of what’s right. This is the single biggest reason why great people, companies and industries fail.

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