Coming to Grips with My Grips

by Rob Kitson

I was listening to "The Load-Bearing Finger", episode 84 of The Accidental Tech Podcst, when they (Casey, John, and Marco) started talking about the usability of the 4.7" form-factor that the new iPhone 6 is sporting. This wasn't the first time that I've heard people on podcasts describe how they hold their phones but it was the first time I'd heard a description of a phone grip while I was laying on my couch, using my phone.

One of the guys, I think it was Casey, was describing how he holds his phone when I realized I was holding mine the exact same way. Then I realized that this was probably one of those "a picture is worth a thousand words" situations, so I figured I'd take some photos of the different ways I hold my phone and put them on Twitter - this post is just a follow-up of those photos.

The photos I took feature my 5s, since I don't have a 6 yet, but I'll post an update when I get my 6-series (I still haven't decided on a size).

One-Handed Use

The majority of my smart-phone screen-time is spent with the phone in one hand or the other. As an ambidextrous phone user, I let the pocket that I'm holstering my phone in determine what hand is driving the phone that day.

I know that some people will ask why I don't simplify my life and just use the same pocket all the time. Beleive me, I wish I could. But as a pump-wearing diabetic, pocket priority goes to my insulin pump whose infusion-site (the place on your body where the pump delivers insulin) finds a new home on my abdomen every few days. These constant relocations mean my infusion-site is constantly switching between my left and right side. I don't wear devices on my belt, so the easiest way to manage the pump and the 3-4 feet of tubing that runs between it and the infusion-site is to simply put the pump in the nearest pocket and stuff the extra tubing in there with it - which displaces the phone every few days.

What I'm physically doing, where I am, and the task I'm trying to accomplish, all come into play when I'm deciding how I'm going to hold my phone when I take it out of my pocket: * Am I doing something active? * Am I in a crowded place, with bunch of trustworthy people, where I may bump into someone and accidentally drop my phone? * Am I in a part of town where someone may run by and try to grab my phone out of my hand? * Am I casually browsing content? * Am I playing a game that requires a little dexterity?

Passive Grip

The main feature of the 'passive grip' is that you use your pinky as a "load-bearing finger" - supporting the phone by its bottom edge, instead of wrapping it around the side with your other three fingers. It allows you to relax your grip on the phone without worrying as much about dropping it, but it also makes reaching the top of the phone much harder because you have to stretch your hand over it's entire height in order to get your thumb to the top.

I typically use this grip when what I'm doing requires relatively little interaction with the phone, activities like reading (blogs, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and light browsing (web, photo streams, my calendar). Activites that require enough concentration that when I'm doing them I'm usually either sitting, standing in a line, or laying down, so I feel comfortable using a more relaxed grip. I've also noticed that many of the apps that I use leverage gestures, and very little top-opposite-corner interaction so I'm not as concerned about corner-to-corner thumb stretches.

Left-Handed Passive Grip

Left-handed passive grip

Right-Handed Passive Grip

Right-handed passive grip

Active Grip

The 'active grip' involves wrapping all four fingers around the phone, which means how high you hold the phone is decided by where you decide to put your hand and not how far apart you can spread pink and ring-finger. Gripping the phone tightly, though, can make it difficult to hit the bottom-corner where your thumb is; using a more relaxed 'active grip' alleviates this a bit.

I find myself using this grip most often when I'm doing something 'active', like walking or running, for fear of tripping and dropping my phone. But I also find it comes in handy when I'm using apps that require more dexterity (tapping all over the screen).

Left-Handed Active Grip

Left-handed active grip

Right-Handed Active Grip

Right-handed active grip

Two-Handed Use

The only time you'll find me using my phone with two hands is when I'm typing more than a few words. In that case, I typically move my primary-hand toward the bottom of the phone and bring my other hand behind it such that my thumbs are at almost the same level and each bottom corner hits me in the palm of their respective hands. Two-handed grip

Hands-Free Use

Recently I've found myself using Siri, and the improved dictation, more and more often. Last week I dictated 2-weeks worth of action items into OmniFocus while walking my dog. I thought it went really smoothly, even though my dog kept looking back at me thinking I was talking to her.

99% of the time when I use Siri my phone is in my pocket and I simply hold down the middle-button on my headphone remote until I hear the telltale alert, then I tell Siri to do something and wait for her confirmation. The other 1% of the time my phone is plugged-in (on my desk) and I say "Hey Siri" and do the same dance with Siri as when I'm wearing my headphones.


by Rob Kitson

Unlike Casey Liss, I'm all thumbs when it comes to Emoji. Probaly because I suck at them. My infrequent use causes me to forget what my options are and where they are in the 'keyboard'. And, to be honest, I find the similarity of some of the faces to be too close and not entirely representative of what I'm trying to convey.

The other day, I saw Leveled Up Emoji, and realized I've been doing it wrong this whole time. I really like Casey's approach, taking the time to pick out and assemble some winners that I can mentally map to words is really going to take my Emoji-ing to the next level. I got a kick and a chuckle out of a lot of his shortcuts and was thinking some of them were great candidates to seed my own collection of Emoji shortcuts.

But I use TextExpander. So I re-created all of his shortcuts in TextExpander and have saved the folder so that, if you're a novice like me, you can import it into your TextExpander library and start your own collection.

You can download it here.

My thanks to Casey for the inspiration and the jump-start.

Upgrade Silverlight? Not like this.

by Rob Kitson

I was just prompted to upgrade silverlight, and (when I accepted) was redirected to a page that looked like this:

Screen Shot 2012-07-13 at 12.53.09 AM.png

Not the most complicated instructions I've seen. But seriously, it's 2012. Shouldn't our browser plugins know how to install themselve's by now? And shouldn't they know how to override their predicesors?

Tracking commits across branches in Git

by Rob Kitson

Recently I had to give a few colleagues a tutorial on how to figure out which branches a particular commit has been applied to in a Git repository. Not hard-core git by any means, but useful nonetheless.

Local Repos

If you want to see which branches in your local repo contain a commit use this command:

  git branch --contains <commit SHA>

The results, if there are any, should be a list of local branches :


In the example above the commit I'm looking for was a part of the work done on "feature_branch1", which has been merged to other_branch and master using merge branches. Since the changes were pulled into master (and I'm constantly pulling master to get the latest changes) the next time I branched from master to work on a new feature (other_feature_branch) the commits from feature_branch1 were included.

Remote Repos

If you want to see which branches on your remote repo(s) contain a commit simply add the -r switch to the command:

  git branch -r --contains <commit SHA>

The results, if there are any, should be a list of fully-qualified branch names:


In this case it appears that the work that was done on featurebranch1 and has been pull-requested to stage, and 3 new branches have been started since: acid_burn, crash_override, and zero_cool. It would be awesome if the engineer responsible for feature_branch1-TO-env_stage and feature_branch1-TO-other_branch would delete those merge branches since we still have the feature branch, and the changes have been merged to master. feature_branch1 should not be deleted until that feature ships.

Logo orientation matters

by Rob Kitson

John Gruber (the Daring Fireball) recently had a post about the history of the Apple logo orientation on it's laptop covers in which he mentioned that all other manufacturers had fallen in line with Apple's practice of displaying it correctly to on-lookers (which he recently corrected, mentioning that Lenovo has NOT adopted this practice yet).

A couple months ago I was issued a Lenovo ThinkPad W520 at work and the first thing I noticed was that logos on the back of the display were oriented such that they would be correct when I looked at them but would be upside-down to anyone that happened to look at my machine while I was using it.  Also, I noticed that my work laptop was lacking the logo of the laptop that I'd much rather be working on (ANYTHING made by Apple). So, I took the liberty of placing one of the stickers that was shipped with my MacBook Air on the back of my ThinkPad (with the proper oriention, of course).


"What kind of Mac is that?" is the usual comment.  And there's typically a good laugh once I explain the sticker, and then show them that it's the only logo that's not upside-down once you open the lid of the laptop and start working.

Thank you Steve

by Rob Kitson

As someone who has experienced very little death, the loss of Steve Jobs has had quite an unexpected impact on me. Part of me knew it was coming, while another part had convinced myself it was a couple years off. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how to deal with it and there will be some crying involved at some point.

My career started in the late 90's and I worked exclusively on Windows. The average Mac users that I knew annoyed me. They were always complaining about incompatibility and they typically knew less about computers, in general, than Windows users. As it turned out THAT was kind of the idea. Steve didn't want the average user to know about the specs of their machine, he just wanted them to have the best experience possible. It wasn't about specs, it was about experience.

I didn't fully grasp that until October 2008, when I gave my wife an iPhone 3G for her birthday. I had the AT&T Tilt at the time and was pretty damn excited about the prospects of writing apps for the windows mobile platform. One problem though, I couldn't take my hands off her iPhone (literally) and it actually sparked a few arguments (sorry babe). I quickly made the decision to switch to the iPhone and have never been happier or more confident in a decision.

That iPhone purchase led me to other iPhones, my first MacBook, a MacMini, a couple Apple TVs, and an iMac. I couldn't be happier with ANY of those purchases. I didn't feel that any one of them was overpriced; in-fact, I priced out my iMac against the same computer (if assembled from mid-range parts at a very reasonable online retailer) and my iMac ended up being cheaper, after OS/software licensing fees.

Steve Jobs changed my life in the 80’s, but it took 20+ years for me to find out. He had a vision, he sold it, and he delivered. I will be forever grateful for the influence he had on the industry, the world, and eventually me.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of this truly remarkable man. I was not ready to see him go. My deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

Thank you Mr. Jobs.