Guns Guns Guns

Anger over ‘toy’ guns on iPhone:

John Beyer of mediawatch UK added: “In view of recent events in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, I think anything that glamorises guns and shooting is in extremely poor taste.

With all due respect, John, I don’t think anyone could reasonably make a link between these and compared to the number of gun deaths in the world, you’re really making a mountain out of a molehill. I was in San Francisco when the shootings occurred and the point was made to me that in Northern Ireland, these shootings are extraordinary, in New York, they’re “Tuesday”. Yes, symbolically, the shootings are a terrible blow to Northern Ireland and a very personal tragedy for those involved but let’s not be silly.

Or…if we are going to pursue this to the illogical extreme, let’s just ban all games and entertainment where firearms are used.

Feel better?

Accessibility as paradigm

Posts like this remind me why I never settled for something “in the meantime” for my co-working plans.

Martin Pilkington (of MCubedSoftware) wrote about The Accessible Mac:

I’ve not got a disability that limits my ability to use the computer and don’t personally know anyone with one, but I do have a strong sense that we should all be treated equal and have equal opportunities. When we can do something to help someone else and it is very cheap or very easy to do, then we should do it. Making accessible applications can be very easy and not take too much time, but can make a world of difference to some people.

Working with my Dad on the Mac highlighted some of the difficulties to me. My Dad is on the Blind persons register as well as having severe motor function loss due to nerve damage. Despite this he soldiers on, maintaining a Mac mini hooked up to a commodity LCD TV. I use BackToMyMac every now and then to guide him through some steps or fix an actual technical issue (iTunes is a PITA for blind folk) but he manages quite well with a combination of VoiceOver and holding down Control while Scrolling (which on the Mac, zooms the interface – useful tip for those of us who aren’t nearsighted too). We don’t have great haptics on computers – some engineers build a vibrating component into a tool and we call it haptic feedback. No. It’s. Not. A vibration without some sort of context is useless. We need to be thinking bigger than that – I’m faintly disappointed to learn that the new iPod Shuffle gets all of it’s text-to-speech conversions from the hosting Mac or PC and it’s not just a widget inside the tiny device. That said – Apple had Text-to-Speech working on the Newton over a decade ago (and I’ll save my rant about how cool the Routing menu was for another day). We shouldn’t rely on visuals and a vibration in a device to provide our interfaces when we have computers which are capable of much more.

The point being – my Dad isn’t even an extreme case. We have so many examples of digital ‘illiteracy’ due to poverty, ability, experience, fear and yet every day we hear about new services, new applications. There are times when I feel a little threadbare, stretched across a frame due to having so many inputs and outlets (and no, I’m not talking about InterfaceBuilder and XCode here). That feeling happens to me every couple of months, I can’t imagine what it must be like every single day to be confronted with this and not have all five senses and a brain that’s been pretty much wired into the Internet for nearly two decades.

Great design creates new data.

Scott Stevenson writes:

Visual design is often the polar opposite of engineering: trading hard edges for subjective decisions based on gut feelings and personal experiences. It’s messy, unpredictable, and notoriously hard to measure. The apparently erratic behavior of artists drives engineers bananas. Their decisions seem arbitrary and risk everything with no guaranteed benefit.

An experienced designer knows that humans do not operate solely on reason and logic. They’re heavily influenced by emotions and perceptions. Even more frustratingly, they often lie to you about their reactions because they don’t want to be seen as imperfect.

and in the comments are some more excellent soundbites

Rob Morris writes:

…exceptional design has ideals, integrity and vision. It listens and is informed by its users, but sometimes more importantly, it knows better.

Doug writes:

Great design creates new data. Design is creative, not reactive

Two weeks ago I met Jonathan Ive. Ive is SVP of Industrial Design at Apple. He’s credited with some of Apple’s design triumphs: the eMate, the iBook, the iMac, PowerBook G4, iPod, iPhone, Mac mini and a raft of others. He said his team is small but they’ve been working together for a very long time now – something that affords great understanding between them. Ive seems a quiet and humble bloke, but his presence and passion were able to shine through in the brief meeting – his volume increasing as he became more passionate about the subject. This bloke, from the same part of the country as David Beckham, was voted by the Daily Telegraph as being more influential than Beckham (which probably says more about how out of touch famous footballers are with the rank and file).

I love how some of the designs I like inspire strong feelings in myself and others. Exceptional design should inspire polarity of thought – you should be in love with it or hate it – it should, by it’s very name, be an exception. This is subtly different from ‘the most usable design’ of course, which should slot into your own user model so easily that you barely notice it. Great design in interfaces can also polarise but even the worst reaction should acknowledge the attention to detail in the user model. This is something that, again, Apple does well. It’s always been a medium where Apple has changed things incrementally and when they have perhaps taken a step backwards (like Mac OS X Public Beta) it was most definitely a ‘girding of our loins’, a ‘hitching of our skirts’ so we could better witness and experience the changes going forward.

Cool video, cooler music

This video is very cool – showing a sea rescue in a unique perspective.


Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

And it made me buy the Clementine EP by Washington ( Myspace link )

I don’t often talk about music (due to liking too many things to satisfy any one taste) but I love that a a mix of media has meant that I’ve bought some new music.

The Sixth Sense?

The theory goes that our technology can enable us to have a sixth sense. With the computer I keep in my pocket, I can find directions, addresses of local businesses and amenities, restaurant reviews

Pattie Maes of MIT demoed this at TED, from the Fluid Interfaces Group:

The flashy bit is actually the least important part of the technology – it’s not about the projection mechanism – it’s more about the interpretation algorithm. Software that understands context.

While I have seen ‘wearable’ interfaces before, they tend to look a little dorky – but then we all thought Lieutenant Uhura was odd with her earpiece and now every second car driver wears a bluetooth earpiece. Why the earpiece is not acceptable as pedestrian wear is beyond me. It would seem to be obvious.

And with the recent innovation of adding voiceover to one of the smallest music players on the market – the player reads the text of MP3 tags to you – it’s not long before we can expect something similar in the iPhone and other smartphones. Receive a text – yeah, just read it to me. Email, yup. Tweets, sure. Tell me that your battery is low. Give me email filters to read out any message marked urgent or those from certain people.

I don’t need a projector around my neck – I want something which will, for example, use Bluetooth to identify folk I meet (gee, need some handy peer-peer tech there), immediately fetch me their social data from Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or whatever is popular, and then feed that information into my earhole so I know what to say. Yes, there’s technical difficulties here (though a lot of interface choices could be handled with a chording approach or using the thumb to select from four finger choices).

I think the problem is that I’ve ranted about this before. I want a Ghost in the machine which will handle some of the mundanes for me. I want it to feed me with more info, on demand. And what’s best – this is all UI. It’s about putting a more human interface onto existing technology. At the moment we only really use our eyes for data and we respond to much more than just visuals. When we watch a movie, it doesn’t matter if the screen is huge or fits in our pocket as long as the sound is good. We need to be using the aural sense a lot more and not just for indignant beeps.

It’s not the projector round your neck or the attached camera. That’s information and interface without privacy and exclusivity. I’ll happily carry round my iPhone if this was available – I already carry it everywhere.

Heck, I’d even settle for something that could just tell me yes or no.

More ‘Seed Incubators’

TechCrunch has the scoop. Silicon Valley has Y Combinator. Boulder, Colorado (and now Boston) has TechStars. Boston also as of today has Start@Spark. Washington, D.C. has LaunchBox Digital. Philadelphia has DreamIT Ventures. And now Atlanta is joining the seed incubator movement with Shotput Ventures.

We are looking for “capital light” web startups.

Ideally we are looking for a small team of co-founders, most likely still in college. We will pick 8 to 10 teams and give them $25k each so they don’t have to get summer jobs and can work on the product full time. … We will take a 5% to 10% equity stake.

The closest I’ve seen to this is the NI Tech Fund (PDF) which is an InvestNI supported Venture Capital fund. The brochure is from 2007 but I’ve emailed to see if the exec handling it can comment some more. It’s not the same as a Seed Incubator though.

A Seed Incubator aims to fund the very earliest stage – the bit with the highest risk in theory – with really small amounts of money (in VC terms). The idea being to allow small teams of smart people a few months of breathing space to build something great – so they don’t have to worry about the pressures of holding down a job as well as trying to create the next online revolution. The amounts are small and therefore are likely to attract younger folk to the table (or folk who have fewer commitments – family, mortgage, subscription to Sky movies).

Today I’m not sure we could find 8-10 startups in Belfast and the surrounding areas to qualify for this sort of programme. We need to start smaller and aim higher.

Windows Mobile 7? Nothing to see here

WMPowerUser.com, a Windows Mobile focussed site, seems to have come up with some screen shots of Windows Mobile 7. This mobile OS will allegedly be hitting the marketplace in Spring 2010

wm712

Is it pithy to say that the phone icon has been ripped off? Or to question the need for the time to be present in three different formats n this, the home screen? Or to explain how I think the usability of the CoverFlow-style-Dock-ripoff is a right pain in the arse?

Does it make it worse when you look at the positioning of the signal strength and battery and volume indicators in this additional screenshot?

wm72

They shouldn’t change position like that, should they? At least they’ve got time to fix it but the amazing thing is that no-one in the WM site above seemed to notice any of the bad things?

At least it’s shiny. That’s what they put on Vista’s epitaph.

none of the smartphones were successfully exploited

Slashdot writes:

TippingPoint had offered $10,000 for each exploit on any of the phones, which included the iPhone and the BlackBerry, as well as phones running the Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android operating systems.
With the mobile devices so limited on memory and processing power, a lot of [researchers’] main exploit techniques are not able to work,

The problem being that phones are going to get more powerful rather than less so there’s still work to be done on mobile security. They’re going to get memory and processing rivalling some recent generation desktop and laptop machines. Two years ago, @dressjunkie’s main computer was a 1 GHz Celeron desktop with 256 MB RAM. Her current iPhone is a 667MHz processor running at 412MHz with 128 MB RAM. The next generation iPhone may well run faster (considering the iPod Touch 2nd Generation runs at 533 MHz!).

I guess we can look forward to great exploits in the future. iPhone is pretty much untested here – the only mobile OS to make it to UK GOV CESG testing and survive is RIM’s Blackberry. iPhone hasn’t been tested by CESG and Windows Mobile has been tested and rejected five times.

Dublin XCake.org Meet, Thurs 26th March, 7 pm

@Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted:
“There’s a Dublin Xcake.org (for Mac and iPhone Developers) meetup tomorrow (Thurs) in Le Cirk, Dame St. at 7pm.”

XCake was started by myself and John Kennedy (@craicdesign) last year due to our mutual interest in iPhone development. John has currently got three apps in the App Store. It’s also notable that some of our “local heroes” are going to be attending. It’s a great opportunity to meet, to network, to learn and to maybe get a little business.

We had a meeting in Dublin and another in Belfast earlier this year and it was very well attended – I have an inkling that this weeks meeting in Dublin will be even bigger.

Steve also adds: “Also if any art/design people are interested in coming to tomorrow’s iPhone developer meetup (Dublin), is a good opportunity to get clients!”

I’d also say that might work out well for musicians who want to do sound effects for games/apps.