Showing posts from January, 2011

Yesterday and Today

You are sitting in a popular street-side cafe, sipping mint tea from a glass cup, playing a never-ending game of shesh besh . You gaze across the table. Your friend carefully considers the board. He smiles a toothy grin as he double-sixes and moves his pieces out of danger. You roll the dice. The electronics shop opposite you, the one with the over-sized "Panasonic" sign, seems quite out of place, squeezed between a store selling hookahs and a spice shop displaying large sacks of cumin powder, turmeric and fennel seeds. The crowded street is a circus of color. Of course, you are used to the noise and commotion. Tourists take photos of the pack-saddled camels and their turbaned riders, to which you barely pay attention. You are more interested in the shiny Hummer SUV lumbering elephant-like through the throng of pedestrians, animals and rusty pick-up trucks. A half-blind beggar shakes a rusty can in your face. You turn him away, knowing that, on a good day, he probably

Heads-Up: The GUI Gets Real

I recently attended a lecture about Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). One of the main points that the lecturer made was that you have to build the GUI to suit the needs of the users. Users want everything - and what they want may not be what they need. So the important thing is to understand who your users are (demographic, knowledge, limitations, etc). You then have to arrange all of the elements of the GUI to tell a story. That is, you need to define the sequence of actions (the process) such that the GUI helps the user to know where he is, what he is doing, how he got there, and what to do next. As the GUI designer, the story you want to tell includes the order in which the various elements on the page are seen by the user. It is very important that the first thing you see on the screen is one that tells you exactly where you are and gives you some indication of what you can do there. Recently, a question was posed on the Techshoret email list about the best tool for developing

21st Century Navigation

We have a family tradition: Whenever we go on a driving holiday, we have to get lost at least once. This tradition began on our honeymoon to Mansfield in the scenic Victorian Highlands.  1985 Holden Camira Driving our trusty 1985 Holden Camira, we decided to head off the highway and "see where this dirt road takes us". Ah, the indomitable spirit of adventure! We drove quite some distance along the dirt road. The scenery was spectacular and crossing a bridge over a babbling brook as the sun glinted off the pristine water, butterflies wafting in and out of the flowers along the bank, was a highlight. Then then car stalled. The engine wouldn't reengage. Not a splutter not a clank, not a rumble. No matter, it couldn't be too long to the next town, so I took a walk to the top of the next hill to see what I could see. So idyllic. So scenic. So picturesque. So far, far away from civilization. Stuck out there in the middle of nowhere with an overheated engine, no mobi

Sports Technology: Bringing in the Bucks

Technorati Claim Code: CNMGMJN444WT Sport: A battle between players or teams after which the victor jubilates in the changing rooms and the loser is left to nurse his wounds. The promise of winners and losers is what drives hundreds and thousands of fans to stadiums around the world every year. Companies pay top-dollar to get their names in front of spectators. In 2005, it cost $2.4m to run a 30-second advertisement during the Superbowl. $10m to $20m will buy you primary sponsorship of a NASCAR team. In 2006/2007 it cost approximately £20m for shirt sponsorship at top English football clubs. But you can only fit so many people into a stadium, and because sport is now a multi-billion dollar industry with multiple revenue streams (including property, media, licensing/merchandising, and sponsorships), organziers want as much exposure as possible. So how do you attract more people to the stadium and how do you keep fans in front of television screens? Well, one would think that a

Do Smart Phones Equal Dumb People?

El Vendor, a five-part advertisement for Android , is pretty funny (catch all five episodes here, on Wired .) The premise of the series of advertisements is that a vending machine falls on top of Dave, an average assistant manager in a large company. He is stuck under the vending machine for 32 hours. But it's okay because he has his Android phone with him. During that time Dave becomes much more productive than he was before and actually gets promoted -  because with the Android smartphone, he can do anything. At the end of each of the videos (aside from the first one, I believe) the following text appears: Android = SMARTER phone. Are computers making us dumber as they get smarter? Good question. Wish I was intelligent enough to answer it, but I'll give it a go. Do any of the following sound familiar: I don't have to know facts, I'll just Google it I don't have to know how to speak Korean, I'll just Google translate it I don't need to know how to

Will the Marketplace Swallow a W7 Tablet?

The iPad was unleashed on the unsuspecting world of consumer electronics in April 2010. For better or for worse, being the first to market and selling nearly 12 million units , the iPad, a brand new class of device, has set the benchmark. Apple has shown the world that the tablet form factor has a market (whether it existed before the iPad or whether the iPad created the market is a whole new topic.) Most blogs on the subject of the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011) agree that the focus of attention was on tablet computing. There are now a plethora of tablets on offer that compete head-to-head with the iPad. Most of these devices are Android-based systems - some are a serious threat to the iPad ( Samsung's Galaxy tab , for one), others are poorly designed, cheap knock-offs. Then there is the Blackberry Playbook (to be offered for sale in early 2011) which runs RIM's Blackberry Tablet OS. The Kindle 3 eBook reader , while not really a tablet computer, offe


Okay, more like tapping, blowing air...and waiting...

Faker Than An Afghani Election Result

First, watch this video presentation of new glasses-free 3D TV technology (kudos to Gizmodo for the link.) Now, here are my smarmy comments: If his eyelashes were just that much longer, he’d take off The girl across the room is making eyes at you…no, wait…she’s watching Avatar GIs in the Iraqi desert can now watch 3D TV without getting dust in their eyes Attach a few wires and you could power your house while watching Mythbusters Yeah, right. This tech is faker than a cat putting on a bunnie hat . (Hint: The cat owner put the bunnie hat on the cat, filmed the cat pawing the bunnie hat off its head - which is what any cat would do - and then the owner played the video in reverse.)

Microsoft, Hackers and the Future of Computing

I really enjoyed this Businessweek article about Microsoft's Kinect (3D sensor, gesture-based hardware for Xbox gaming without the need for a hand-held controller.) The article contends that MS is so big and so set in its anti-hacker mode of thinking that it cannot see that it is on the threshold of dominating the next generation of human-computer interaction. Imagine using hand-gestures to replace the mouse and keyboard or to control your robotic vacuum cleaner. MS has the tech for this, they are just too narrow minded and suspicious of open source to see the future. As an aside, this sentiment sort of goes together with this other Businessweek article about knowledge workers: Everyone in an organization has ideas for improving systems and products and should therefore be given the opportunity to contribute. For instance, if you ignore an idea because it came from a delivery guy, you may miss out on productivity improvements. Similarly, if MS ignores ideas just because those ide